Virginia lawmakers approve bill to end use of death penalty in state with the most executions in US history

The governor of Virginia was expected to sign a bill that will end the use of the death penalty after state lawmakers gave the legislation their final approval on Monday.

Virginia has executed more people than any other state in the country since the birth of the nation, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, reportedly killing an estimated 1,400 people in total. It would become the 23rd state to end the use of the death penalty, which the Supreme Court reinstated in 1976.

Since then, Virginia has executed 113 people and was among the top two states in the country that had most frequently used the death penalty, alongside Texas.

Virginia’s Democratic majority, in control of the General Assembly for a second year, pushed the repeal effort, arguing that the death penalty has been applied disproportionately to people of color, the mentally ill and the indigent.

Republicans raised concerns about justice for victims and their family members, and said there are some crimes that are so heinous that the perpetrators deserve to be executed. Both the House and Senate approved separate repeal bills earlier this month. On Monday, the Senate approved the House bill, advancing it to Governor Ralph Northam on a 22-16 vote. Republican Senator Jill Vogel joined with Democrats in the chamber in voting for passage. The House was expected to vote on the Senate version later in the day. Only two men remain on Virginia’s death row. Anthony Juniper was sentenced to death in the 2004 slayings of his ex-girlfriend, two of her children, and her brother. Thomas Porter was sentenced to die for the 2005 killing of a Norfolk police officer. The repeal legislation would convert their sentences to life in prison without parole.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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