by Brandon Jarvis

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill Wednesday to abolish the death penalty across the Commonwealth.

Virginia is the first southern state to make this change that 22 other states have already done.

“Over our 400-year history Virginia has executed more than 1,300 people, more than any other state,” Northam said while speaking Wednesday afternoon at the Greensville Correctional Center, the site of many state-sanctioned executions.

Senator Scott Surovell (D) and Delegate Mike Mullin (D) joined Northam to witness his signature on the legislation they championed through the General Assembly earlier this year.

“Although I was repulsed, I never dreamed I’d be so involved in dismantling capital punishment when I toured the new Death Chamber in July of 1993,” Surovell told Virginia Scope ahead of the signing.

“Virginia has spent over four centuries executing people for the color of their skin,” Mullin said. “It’s high time we start to make up for that, and abolishing the death penalty is a darn good start.”

Virginia will no longer execute individuals — the two men that were on currently death row will serve life without parole.

“This is a historic day in Virginia and a big step forward on the path to a more fair justice system. I have always believed deeply in my soul that the death penalty is abhorrent,” said Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk). “I am heartened today that Virginians have come together – citizens, legislators, and our Governor – in the name of justice, civil rights, and decency to do the right thing and abolish it.”

Northam and the people who were heavily involved in passing this legislation were not oblivious to the significance of the bill — Mullin wiped away tears as the governor finally signed the bill.

Northam remained thankful for the work of the patrons and organizations that made this happen. “This is a truly historic day for Virginia, and I am deeply grateful to those who have fought tirelessly and for generations to put an end to capital punishment in our Commonwealth,” Northam said.

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By vascope