On behalf of the Virginia Justice and Witness Action Network (of the Central Atlantic Conference, United Church of Christ), we write to urge support for legislation to abolish the death penalty in Virginia. We have an unprecedented opportunity to end this immoral and flawed criminal justice penalty with bills pending in both houses of the General Assembly and support from Governor Northam. The reasons to abolish the death penalty are myriad. It is racially biased in its application. Research shows that a person is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death when the murder victim is white versus when the victim is black. The death penalty is expensive. Life in prison protects the public from dangerous criminals at a significantly lower cost. The death penalty has no deterrent value. There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters homicide. And perhaps most persuasive, nationwide since 1976, 172 persons convicted and sentenced to death have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. One person wrongly executed is one too many!
As people of faith, we believe in human dignity and redemption. And, as Virginians committed to racial justice who understand our shameful and brutal history of lynching, we believe we must end this inhumane practice that disproportionately affects people of color. We urge readers to contact their legislators to support Senate Bill 1165 and House Bill 2263.
Rev. Kristen McBrayer, Senior Minister, Emmaus United Church of Christ, Vienna
Gregory Forbes, Vienna
Laurie Forbes, Vienna
Elisa Galindo, Vienna
Antonio Peralta, Vienna
Britt Weaver, Vienna
Gary Weaver, Vienna