“Todos los cristianos y hombres de buena voluntad están llamadas hoy a trabajar no sólo por la abolición de la pena de muerte, sino también para mejorar las condiciones de las cárceles, en el respeto de la dignidad humana de las personas privadas de libertad.” - Papa Francisco
Prior to secession from the Confederacy and admission to the Union in 1863, West Virginia was a part of Virginia. 43 people were executed under Virginia’s authority, 112 after statehood, for a total of 155.
Prior to 1899, executions in West Virginia were public and were carried out at the county level with minimal state involvement. Starting in 1899, all executions were carried out privately in the West Virginia Penitentiary. All executions carried out before 1950 were hangings. This changed with the introduction of the electric chair the following year. 94 executions occurred between 1899 and 1959, the year of the last execution in the state. West Virginia attempted to abolish the death penalty multiple times before successfully doing so in 1965. It was the last state to abolish the death penalty before Furman v Georgia, the 1972 US Supreme Court decision which struck down many states’ death penalty statutes as unconstitutional.
Motions to reinstate the death penalty have appeared in the West Virginia legislature, even as recently as 2011, but attempts to reinstate it have never been successful.
For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:
The Catholic Conference of West Virginia was established to give witness to spiritual values in public affairs and to influence those making decisions regarding social policies to make such decisions in congruence with Catholic social teachings.