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Doing away with capital punishment

Virginia state legislators on Monday approved legislation to end the death penalty in that state, making it the 23rd state in the U.S. to do away with the practice. It is notable, because Virginia, over the years, has executed more people than any other state.

Virginia has come to the realization that the death penalty disproportionately punishes minorities, the mentally ill and the indigent. There is also that nagging issue that many people sitting on death row across the country have been exonerated, proven innocent by new DNA evidence. Far too many have been railroaded by overzealous police and prosecutors. The idea that one innocent person might be executed is abhorrent.

Virginia has come to the conclusion that Minnesota came to in 1911. The Minnesota Legislature abolished capital punishment five years after the state’s last execution, a botched hanging in the basement of the Ramsey County Jail in St. Paul. William Willliams, a Cornish immigrant, had been convicted of shooting his former boyfriend, Johnny Keller, and Keller’s mother to death.

On Feb. 13, 1906, Williams was to be hung in the basement of the jail. The rope used to hang him was too long, and he hit the floor. Deputies had to haul up on the rope and hold Williams in the air for over 14 minutes, until he finally died of strangulation. The outrage over this barbaric act led the state to abolish the death penalty five years later.

Today, the United States is one of the few Western nations that still executes people. No European country does, except for Belarus. The top country for executions is far and away China, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, then the U.S., according to Amnesty International’s 2019 report.

Isn’t it about time the rest of the United States joined Minnesota, Virginia and the rest of the truly civilized world in abolishing the death penalty?

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