Lawmakers vote to make Virginia first Southern state to abolish death penalty

Two bills to abolish the death penalty in Virginia won final approval in the state General Assembly on Monday and were headed to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who is expected to sign them.

Virginia — historically one of the nation’s most prolific death penalty states — would then become the first in the South to abandon the ultimate punishment.

The state Senate approved by a vote of 22 to 16 a House bill that bans executions and establishes a maximum punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole. A judge would have discretion to suspend part of that sentence — a sticking point for some Republicans, who pushed unsuccessfully to make life without parole a mandatory minimum.

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