Governor Northam Proposes End to Death Penalty

In State of the Commonwealth Speech

January 13, 2021 - 9:05 pm
Governor Ralph Northam Briefing

Governor's Office


Richmond, Va. ( - Speaking to a mostly empty House of Delegates Chamber because of the Covid pandemic, Governor Ralph Northam used his State of the Commonwealth speech to call for an end to the death penalty, and for marijuana legalization.  Northam, a Democrat, said both have equity issues:  the death penalty is more likely to be given in the victim is white, and black are three times more likely to face charges for marijuana crimes than whites. Northam had made equity a major theme of his term, especially since a controversial blackface picture was revealed to be on his college yearbook page. 

Northam also called for the expungement of marijuana crimes, along with legalization.  On other topics, he said vaccine distribution is moving along, and said in actuality, Virginia is ninth in terms of shots administered.  Northam also mentioned last week's insurection at the U.S. Capitol, pointing out Virginia troopers and soldiers were among the first to arrive to protect the building.   Northam also honored the two U.S. Capitol Police officers that have died since the attack, both of whom were Virginia residents.

In their response, Republicans criticized what they say is actually a slow pace of vaccine distribution, saying other states are moving forward faster with what they have.  Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), a candidate for Governor, also called for schools to reopen, pointing out other states and private schools are operating.  Senator John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) also took aim at controversial recent releases by the Virginia Parole Board.