United States: Virginia becomes the first southern state to abolish the death penalty

Virginia holds the record for executions on American soil, with 1,391 convicts executed since the 17th century.

Virginia became, on Wednesday March 24, the first state in the former segregationist South to abolish the death penalty. “Today there is no place for the death penalty in this state, in the south and in this country,” said the Democratic governor during a ceremony at Greensville prison, where until ‘here the executions . The abolition of the death penalty is “the right thing to do,” said Ralph Northam, whose state holds the record for executions on American soil .

After very tense debates, the two chambers of Virginia voted earlier this year in favor of a law to abolish the death penalty. “You cannot inflict this ultimate punishment without being 100% sure that you are right and you cannot inflict this ultimate punishment on someone knowing that the system does not work the same for everyone. “ said Ralph Northam, noting that 296 of the 377 prisoners executed in the 20th century were African Americans.

Virginia joins 22 other American states where the death penalty has already been abolished, but its decision is all the more symbolic since no state in the former segregationist South has yet taken this step. The governor pointed to Virginia’s “long and complicated” history , where “the racism and discrimination of our past is repeated today in our justice system.” European settlers in Jamestown carried out in 1608 what is considered the first execution on American soil, that of a captain accused of espionage. Virginia has since executed 1,391 convicts, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

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