State lawmakers have givern final approval to legislation that will end capital punishment in Virginia after a long history of executing more people than any other state in the country, reports the Associated Press. The legislation repealing the death penalty now heads to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who has said he will sign it into law, making Virginia the 23rd state to stop executions. Historically, Virginia has used the death penalty more than any other state, executing nearly 1,400 people since its days as a colony, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Virginia, with 113 executions, is second only to Texas.
The passage of the legislation was just the latest in a long list of sweeping policy changes enacted by Democrats, who have passed some of the region’s strictest gun laws, broadest LGBTQ protections, its highest minimum wage and some of its loosest abortion restrictions. Only two men remain on Virginia’s death row. Anthony Juniper was sentenced to death in the 2004 slayings of his ex-girlfriend, two of her children, and her brother. Thomas Porter was sentenced to die for the 2005 killing of a Norfolk police officer. The repeal legislation would convert their sentences to life in prison without parole. Republicans raised concerns about justice for victims and their family members, and said there are some crimes that are so heinous that the perpetrators deserve to be executed.