Death Penalty Ban, Other Laws from Legislative Session Take Effect Thursday

Several laws from the Virginia legislature’s session will take effect Thursday, including one groundbreaking law abolishing the death penalty in the state. 

Virginia will be the first southern state to take such a measure. 

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Email Shows Biden Nominee Pushed Essay Comparing Police to KKK

Kristen Clarke

President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division circulated an essay from self-proclaimed Marxist poet Amiri Baraka defending cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and referring to police officers as members of the Ku Klux Klan, according an email from her days at Columbia University.

Kristen Clarke forwarded the Baraka essay in an email on June 25, 1999, to her mentor, the late historian Manning Marable.

She suggested that the essay, entitled “Mumia, ‘Lynch Law’ & Imperialism” be placed in a magazine Marable edited and used for a panel on the death penalty.

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Virginia Abolishes Death Penalty

Virginia became the first state in the south to abolish the death penalty when Governor Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he signed twin death-penalty repeal bills introduced by Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) and Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). Virginia joins 22 other states that have also repealed the death penalty.

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Virginia Legislators Call for New Parole Board Investigation After More Details Leaked About Release of Man Convicted of Killing Police Officer

Legislators are calling for a new investigation into alleged misconduct by the Virginia Parole Board (VPB). Last summer, a leaked six-page report from the Office of the State Inspector General detailed how the VPB violated laws and policies when, in April 2020, it decided to parole Vincent Martin without giving his victims the required 50-day notice. Martin was serving a life sentence for killing police officer Michael Connors in 1979, and was released last June. But a new 13-page draft of the report leaked this week, first reported by WTVR, revealing more details about the alleged misconduct by the board and by former Chair Adrianne Bennett, who is now a judge.

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General Assembly Votes to Make Virginia First Southern State to Abolish Death Penalty

The Virginia General Assembly passed a death penalty repeal on Monday. Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bills, which would make Virginia the first state in the South to ban capital punishment. Advocates have argued that the death penalty is vulnerable to wrongful conviction, is expensive, cruel, and applied unfairly, but opponents say some of the most heinous crimes require a death penalty to make sure the criminal doesn’t get free. During the 2021 session, House Republicans have emphasized the names of victims of particularly serious crimes, who they say are being ignored by Democrats.

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Virginia Senate Passes Bill to Abolish Death Penalty

Virginia is one step closer to abolishing the death penalty after a bill to do so passed the Senate Thursday. 

SB 1165 passed by a vote of 21-17 along party lines, with one GOP Senator Bill Stanley (R-20th District) abstaining. Stanley originally co-sponsored the bill, but wanted to add a provision that would ensure murderers convicted of aggravated offenses would never be allowed out of prison. 

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Virginia Gov. Northam Supports Ending ‘Inequitable’ Death Penalty as House Bill Passes

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) showed his support Friday as a bill that would end the death penalty in the state passed through a subcommittee in the Virginia House of Delegates.

“The use of capital punishment has been inequitable. The administration strongly supports HB 2263 and abolishing the death penalty. The Office of [Gov. Northam],” Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) said on Twitter, attributing the statement to Northam’s office. 

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Delegate Mullin Introduces HB 2263 to End Virginia’s Death Penalty

Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) has introduced HB 2263, which would abolish the death penalty in Virginia. The bill has attracted support from leading Democratic policy makers; co-patrons of the bill are House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), attorney general candidate Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), gubernatorial candidate Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), and 40-year House member Delegate Ken Plum (D-Fairfax). In his 2021 State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Ralph Northam also advocated ending the death penalty.

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Legislation Abolishing Death Penalty Advanced by Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday morning.

Introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), Senate Bill 1165 was reported out of the committee by a vote of 10-4, mostly along party lines with Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), chief co-patron on the measure, the only Republican who voted in support.

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