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Tags: death penalty | deter crime | capital punishment

Will Virginia Begin the Ending of the Death Penalty in the South?

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Hannah Cox By Tuesday, 16 February 2021 02:10 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

According to our Founding principles, the states are supposed to hold more power than the federal government. But you can be sure U.S. leaders never let a pesky thing like the Constitution stop them from concentrating power in Washington D.C., as has been the case for decades.

As a result, most Americans have little idea what transpires politically unless it takes place at the national level.

So, while the death penalty has been dying a quiet death from one state to the next for the past two decades, it seems the movement has flown somewhat under the radar.

The age of information has allowed the average person to see behind the curtain of the justice system like never before, and many people are aghast.

There’s an overwhelming amount of corruption, wrongful convictions, racial bias, and just plain ineptitude. In response, droves of Americans have decided that the government is probably too awful to be given the power of life and death.

Since 2000, new death sentences have collapsed by over 60%, with juries consistently opting for alternative sentences.

Executions averaged almost 70 per year in the late 90s but haven’t reached 30 in a year since 2014. Republicans have moved on the issue, with more than 80 GOP lawmakers sponsoring bills to repeal across 15 states since 2018.

And one by one, states are repealing their statutes.

By the end of 2020, half the country had done away with this outdated and ill-informed approach to violence, opting to direct resources to programs that actually work to deter crime and that do not risk innocent lives.

Of the half that still have capital punishment on their books, over a third have not carried out an execution in a decade or more.

The few states still using the death penalty are heavily concentrated in the Bible Belt.

And this month, Virginia is poised to join the ranks of death penalty-free states. State legislators in both chambers voted to repeal the death penalty. All lights are green on the way to the desk of the governor, who has promised to sign repeal into law.

When he does, Virginia will be the first former-confederate state to rid itself of the death penalty, and that in and of itself marks a new era in the abolition movement.

Virginia was an especially aggressive user of capital punishment, even compared to other Southern states, carrying out more executions in its history than any other state.

Many have analyzed the ties between former confederate states and their use of the death penalty. It’s worth noting that the confederate states were the primary culprits behind lynchings in this country.

As the laws started to clamp down on these extrajudicial, racially motivated killings, many states moved to facially neutral laws like the death penalty that allowed them to continue the practice while not running afoul of the law.

To this day, the number one case combination found on death row is a Black defendant with a White victim.

Many of those defendants have been convicted by all-White juries, barely been afforded legal representation, and/or have significant mental impairments.

Scores have ultimately been exonerated.

It’s easy to see the parallels between the two systems.

This framework only adds to the importance of Virginia’s actions this month, and there’s reason to hope it will have a domino effect on other states in the region.

It’s worth noting that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, and that states that use it continue to see higher rates of violent crime than the states and regions that abandoned capital punishment.

Virginia will now have more resources to spend on solving crimes, which is an actual deterrent to violence.

There’s reason to think the state’s public safety will improve. Perhaps their neighbors will take note.

Hannah Cox is the National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Hannah was previously Director of Outreach for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank. Prior to that, she was Director of Development for the Tennessee Firearms Association and a policy advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Read Hannah Cox's Reports — More Here.

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You can be sure U.S. leaders never let a pesky thing like the Constitution stop them from concentrating power in D.C., as has been the case for decades.
death penalty, deter crime, capital punishment
Tuesday, 16 February 2021 02:10 PM
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