– April 15, 2014 –
Virginia has a long and dark history with the death penalty. The first execution in the New World took place in Virginia in 1608 when Captain George Kendall was executed in Jamestown for spying. Throughout its history as a colony and a state, Virginia has executed more people (1,300+) than any other state. Virginia has executed more women and the youngest children of any state. Since the resumption of capital punishment in the late 1970s following a de facto moratorium imposed by the courts, Virginia has executed 110 people, second only to Texas during that time. The average time between conviction and execution in Virginia is less than eight years, by far the shortest in the nation. Since the 1970s, 144 persons convicted and sentenced to death in the United States have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence; the 144 spent an average of 10 years on death row. If these victims of a faulty justice system had been convicted in Virginia, many of them would have been executed before evidence of their innocence came to light.
Notwithstanding Virginia’s rush to judgment in its capital cases, one innocent Virginian – Earl Washington – was released from death row in 1994 following his conviction and death sentence. The history of Virginia’s use of the death penalty is not something of which Virginians can be proud.
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VADP) is a non-profit statewide citizens’ organization that works to bring Virginia’s disturbing legacy to a close. VADP conducts in-person educational programs and makes widespread use of both mainstream and social media to educate Virginia citizens about issues relating to capital punishment. VADP is the go-to organization for on-air and print media for questions and information about the death penalty in Virginia. VADP also works closely with the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) on legislation in Virginia’s General Assembly relating to capital punishment. In recent years VADP and VCC have led the successful effort to block expansion of Virginia’s death penalty and the system that drive it. Most recently, during the 2014 session, VADP and VCC led the successful effort to defeat a bill that would have made electrocution the default method of execution in Virginia.
For more information about VADP, or to assist in its efforts, visit their website.
This article first appeared in the April 2014 CMN Newsletter.