The executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, said he was pleased bipartisan support is growing for ending Virginia’s death penalty.
“With our modern and advanced criminal justice system, we have other ways to provide punishment and protect society, without resorting to executions,” Jeff Caruso, the conference’s executive director, said. “We hope this will be the year to enact death penalty abolition here.”
Earlier this month, in his annual “State of the Commonwealth” address, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he would support a bill just introduced in the General Assembly to abolish the death penalty, including for those persons currently under a death sentence.
The measure would remove the penalty of death for Class 1 felonies and change the sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Under Virginia law, the most serious felonies are Class 1 felonies, punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. The current law says if the defendant was over 18 at the time of the offense and not mentally impaired, Class 1 felonies also may be punishable by death. Examples of crimes classified as Class 1 felonies are capital and first-degree murder.
Picture: Opponents of the death penalty protest at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., on 12th January 2021. In Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he supports a bill introduced by legislators on 13th January to end capital punishment in the state. (CNS photo/Bryan Woolston, Reuters).