15:48 GMT16 April 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a historic bill Wednesday putting an end to the death penalty in a state which has a long history of carrying out executions.

    “Today, Virginia becomes the first southern state to end this practice. We join 22 other states in saying the government will not take a life, the government will no longer execute people," Northam said before signing the bill.

    Northam said ending the death penalty was the "moral thing to do," but warned criminals that they would not face leniency in the state.

    "Now, make no mistake if you commit the most serious crime of crimes, you will be punished, but Virginia can do it without continuing a system that gets it wrong even once and a system that doesn’t work the same for everyone who encounters it. Justice and punishment are not always the same thing. That is too clearly evident in 400 years of the death penalty in Virginia. So, today Virginia takes an important step forward,” he said.

    An estimated 1,400 people have been executed in Virginia since the colonial era. In modern times, the state is second on the list of states performing death penalties, only following Texas.

    The signing of the bill comes amid heightened discussion on the death penalty in the country after the US Supreme Court agreed to review a lower court decision to toss out a death sentence verdict for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of two brothers convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

    Reacting to the measure, the White House said that US President Joe Biden has strong concerns over whether the death penalty, as currently implemented, fits with American values. During his election campaign, Biden promised to try to abolish all federal death sentences.


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