FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2021
Contact: Adele McClure, Executive Director
Phone: (804) 876-0221
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Statement on the Abolition of the Death Penalty
Today the Governor has signed into law legislation to abolish the death penalty, a Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) priority. The members of the VLBC, past and present, are proud to see this measure finally signed into law, making Virginia the first in the South to do so.
For decades, alongside advocates the VLBC has championed efforts to finally end this outdated and cruel practice, to prevent the Commonwealth from mistakenly putting innocent people to death, and to eliminate the disproportionate application of the death penalty on Black people. As stated in a 2005 bill carried by former VLBC member and then State Senator Henry L. Marsh III, the “imposition of the death penalty carried out by order of the Commonwealth on an innocent person would be an unspeakable and most lamentable injustice.”
“This is a historic moment for criminal justice reform in Virginia as we finally end a barbaric system that disproportionately punished Black and Brown people,” said VLBC Vice Chair Jennifer McClellan (D-9th, Richmond), a co-patron of the bill (SB 1165 - Surovell). “Ending capital punishment is a critical step on the long path to build a justice system that is truly just.”
According to records, Black people make up about 20% of Virginia’s population, but 46% of people executed in recent history. Virginia is shamefully known as a national leader in the number of executions.
“Being a national leader in the number of executions is not a title to be proud of,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-46th, Alexandria), a chief co-patron of the bill (HB 2263 - Mullin). Prior to the bill’s passage by the Virginia General Assembly, Leader Herring quoted the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall stating that “[i]t is evident...that the burden of capital punishment falls upon the poor...and the underprivileged members of society.” Leader Herring added that “[i]f we understand the facts of how the penalty is actually applied, we would do away with the death penalty.”
The members of the VLBC look forward to continuing the push for long overdue justice reform and thank the faith community, advocates, patrons of the bills, and so many others for working tirelessly to usher in this change.
“This has been a long time coming, but we finally got there,” said Senate President Pro Tempore L. Louise Lucas (D-18th, Portsmouth). “For as long as capital punishment existed in our Commonwealth it was disproportionately used against Black and Brown Virginians and against low-income communities. Now we take another step forward towards a fairer and more equitable justice system. We have gotten so much accomplished in this session to break down the barriers that have existed for so long here in Virginia and across the United States. And I look forward to seeing what more we can accomplish in the sessions ahead.”
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) is made up of 23 members in the Virginia General Assembly. VLBC is committed to improving the economic, educational, political, and social conditions of African Americans and underrepresented groups in Virginia. A vital part of VLBC’s mission is to raise the consciousness of other groups to the contributions made by African Americans to the Commonwealth and the Nation.
Address: P.O. Box 15512, Richmond, VA 23227 | Website: www.VABlackCaucus.com
Email: VLBC10@gmail.com | Twitter/Facebook: @VABlackCaucus | Phone: 804-876-0221