The Washington Post

Can Virginia make the right call?

- Michael E. Stone, Richmond The writer is executive director of Virginians for Alternativ­es to the Death Penalty.

Regarding the June 6 editorial “Another deathpenal­ty ban”:

New Hampshire recently became the 21st state to abolish capital punishment. There are execution moratorium­s in four other states. Another 10 have not put anyone to death in the past decade. The death penalty functions in only a dozen states.

Unfortunat­ely, Virginia is among the few that still carry out executions, having put to death three people in the past five years. But that may soon change.

No Virginia jury has sentenced an offender to death since 2011, and that sentence was overturned last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. There are only two men remaining on Virginia’s death row, and their sentences may also be overturned by the courts in the coming months because of errors at trial.

The death penalty is costly, arbitrary and racially discrimina­tory. As long as capital punishment is part of our criminal-justice system, innocent people will be sentenced to death — and some will be executed. It is inevitable.

It is time for the Virginia General Assembly to repeal capital punishment once and for all to ensure that no innocent person is put to death for a crime he or she did not commit. We are working to identify bipartisan sponsors to introduce a death-penalty abolition bill for the 2020 legislativ­e session.

With hard work and a bit of luck, next year Virginia will become the first Southern state to abandon capital punishment.

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