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Is Virginia’s Move to Abolish the Beginning of the End of the Death Penalty in America?

History News Network

Rick Halperin is director of the Human Rights Program at SMU Dallas He writes frequently on death penalty policy at the state and federal level. 

Given all the crises the nation has been dealing with in the last year, it is easy to overlook a major human rights accomplishment and advancement that is occurring right before us.

The impending abolition of the death penalty in Virginia is indeed an historic moment in this country’s human rights history.

It continues a long trend over several decades in which numerous states throughout the country reached similar conclusions to end the barbaric practice of state-sanctioned executions.  Of course, as a Southern state and the former capital of the Confederacy, Virginia’s move is all the more noteworthy. I do expect the trend to abolish the death penalty in America to continue, but not anytime soon in other Southern states.

A bipartisan bill to abolish the death penalty has been introduced in Ohio, a state commonly known in death penalty parlance as “The Texas of the north,” due to its numerous executions (56) in the years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled July 2, 1976 that executions could resume after a four-year moratorium.  Ohio is the only one of the top ten states for executions that is not linked to the former Confederacy. That list would read as follows: Texas (570), Virginia (113), Oklahoma (112), Florida (99), Missouri (90), Georgia (76), Alabama (67), Ohio (56), and both North and South Carolina with 43. It is not easy to face the inextricable links between slavery, lynching and the death penalty in both the South and the nation, but we are called to do so. READ MORE


By Katherine Nickles