RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — On Wednesday, a bill was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth.
On Thursday morning, several Commonwealth’s Attorneys who said they represent 40 percent of the state met to show their support.
The bill calls for the state to remove the penalty of death for Class 1 felonies and changing the sentence to life in prison.
Three former Attorneys General and eleven Commonwealth’s Attorneys, as well as other former prosecutors, recently signed a letter to the General Assembly expressing their support for the abolition of the death penalty in the Commonwealth.
James Hingeley, Albermarle County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, signed the letter and said the use of the sentence is biased and proves it does little to deter criminal behavior.
“Wrongful convictions are a fact of life, there is no reason at all as to why we should have the death penalty when we make so many mistakes,” Hingeley said. “A number of people who have been exonerated tell the story.”
According to the Department of Corrections, there were two Virginia inmates on death row as of 2020.
Virginia has executed 113 people since 1973, and Wednesday night in his Commonwealth Adress, Gov. Ralph Northam said a person is three times more likely to be sentenced to death when a victim is white than when a victim is black.
“I don’t think anything else really needs to be said then that we are executing people, charging people with capital murder, imposing the death sentence on them in a racially discriminatory manner,” Hingeley said.
If the bill is passed, Virginia would become the first state in the south to end capital punishment.
WHSV reached out to Commonwealth’s Attorneys in the Valley, but has yet to hear back.