The US state of Virginia has become the first in the Southern US to outlaw the death penalty.
In a move that came into force following Governor Ralph Northam adding his signature to stop a racially discriminatory “machinery of death” as he called it, a dark chapter has come to a close in a state with one of the world’s busiest death chambers.
Reports from the US indicate that Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of people it has put to death since capital punishment was reintroduced in the US in the mid 1970s.
The state has typically used either the electric chair (image below) or lethal injection to execute prisoners.
Almost 1,400 executions have been carried out in Virginia since the early days of settlements in the area, but in recent years the strengthening Democratic movement in the state has been pushing for the outright abolition of capital punishment statewide.
Since the turn of the century, 377 convicted felons have been executed in Virginia with almost 300 of these being African American; the two men remaining on the state’s death row are also black.
Instead of the death penalty it is now understood that these men will now have their sentence commuted to life imprisonment with no chance of parole.
In recent years, from both within and outside its borders, the US has faced increasingly vocal demands to abolish the death penalty to fall into line with around 170 other members of the 194 member United Nations who do not use capital punishment.
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