A Historic Day for Abolition: Virginia Repeals the Death Penalty.

Death Penalty Action
7 min readMar 27, 2021

WOW — what a week! Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam signed the bill abolishing the state’s death penalty on Wednesday. Watch the video of the signing here. This historic moment makes Virginia the 23rd state in the union to abandon the death penalty and the first Southern state to do so. Virginia’s leaders recognized that their death penalty was fundamentally unfair and acted accordingly. So the big question is, who’s next? Things are looking promising in Ohio and we’re also working hard to abolish the federal death penalty.

As Jewish people around the world prepare to celebrate Passover this weekend, our director Abe Bonowitz offers this reflection on the death penalty, Passover and conversations around justice. Click here to read.

Announcing the launch of a new website featuring an in-depth look into executions in the United States through photographs!

The Ku Klux Klan rallying in support of a Black man’s execution in Texas. The North Carolina death row warden wheeling a gurney into the execution chamber. Georgia’s execution of an innocent man. Weeping family members at the moment of a loved one’s execution.

These are just a few of the images captured in one of our co-founders, Scott Langley’s chilling death penalty photo documentary project, which is the most comprehensive collection of original death penalty photographs available from one source.

The documentary includes execution vigils, inside an execution chamber, the hours leading up to an execution, portraits of exonerated death row prisoners, celebrities opposed to the death penalty, marches, demonstrations and candid emotional and prayerful moments in the context of the death penalty in the United States.

The project started in 1999 and continues today.

Experience the photos and stories at http://deathpenaltyphoto.org

Follow the project on social media:

Exhibits of the photos are available on loan, and Scott Langley is available to give presentations in-person or virtually. Email info@deathpenatyphoto.org for more information.

Watch Free: The State of Texas vs. Melissa

Melissa Lucio has spent more than a decade on death row for the alleged murder of her two-year-old daughter, Mariah. In 2008, Lucio became the first Latina woman sentenced to death in Texas. In July 2019, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned a Texas court ruling and found Lucio’s right to a “complete defense” had been violated in her original trial. In February 2021, a sharply divided en banc Fifth Circuit reversed the 2019 grant of relief by a vote of 10 to 7. Lucio’s hope for exoneration and freedom now lies with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lucio has steadfastly maintained her innocence in the death of Mariah. “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” a 2020 documentary by Sabrina Van Tassel, highlights many of the concerning facts around her case. The film is currently winning awards in film festivals around the world, and it is available to watch for a fee on various streaming platforms. Now, in collaboration with Sabrina Van Tassel and with explicit encouragement from Melissa Lucio, Death Penalty Action is making the film available for free viewing on this special platform.

To watch, click here. If you are able to pay the viewing fee, please do. To watch for free, use the code “Action123,” when prompted. Once you register you have three days to start watching it, and once you start watching, you have 24 hours to complete it.

Click here to become a sponsor of this special viewing opportunity. Thank you!

Join the Columbia Criminal Justice Coalition for a weekend-long national virtual summit with featured events including:

  • CURE National on the Repeal of the Exemption Clause of the 13th Amendment
  • Death Penalty Action on Ending Executions
  • Converging Worlds of Williams College on Prisons in the Pandemic
  • Prison Journalism Project on Reporting from the Inside the Walls: The Potential of Prison Journalism
  • Penn State Student Restorative Justice Initiative on Restorative Justice Practices: Restorative Circles
  • Vanderbilt Prison Project on Parole Advocacy Initiatives

Please visit www.criminaljusticesummit.org to register!

Legendary human rights hero Delores Huerta made a short video recently talking about abolishing the death penalty in Nevada. Watch her powerful words here, and if you live in Nevada, click here to sign up with the campaign in that state!

Death Penalty Action Director Abraham J. Bonowitz is desperate to be out of a job. It’s happened once before, when he was the field manager for New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. When New Jersey became the first state to legislatively repeal its death penalty in 2007, Abe wasn’t sure what would be next, and then he was hired as the Director of Affiliate Support for the now nearly defunct National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. That job lasted 5 and a half years, during which time Abe played instrumental roles in the abolition of the death penalty in New Mexico in 2009, Illinois in 2011 and Maryland in 2013. “It’s always a thrill when they pass your bill,” is a common reflection heard from Abe, and it comes from experience. Here’s a short video Abe made of the final moments of capital punishment in New Jersey.

Abe is a visionary who saw the need for an organization to mobilize abolitionists when federal executions started up under the Trump Administration. More than 30 years after he changed his mind on the issue and became a death penalty abolitionist, Abe is looking forward to be being out of a job again, and sees that as possible within the next decade.

Abe lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Beth, their son Isaac, two murderous cats (Clea & Tiger) and their pup, Eostre. His education and early work life was in photographic technology — back in the days of hand held light meters, darkrooms and the limitations of a single piece of film in a view camera.

Write your member of Congress and tell them you do not support the federal death penalty!

Live in Nevada? Nevadans are still reeling from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. To offset the state’s budgetary shortfall, we urge Governor Sisolak and the Nevada Legislature to repeal the costly and ineffective death penalty. Click here to take action!

The South Carolina Senate has passed legislation to allow for alternative methods of execution, including burning prisoners to death in the electric chair, or shooting them with a firing squad. The bill has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee in the South Carolina House of Representatives but as of this writing on 3/27/2021, it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. Live in South Carolina? Please use this tool to write to your representative in the South Carolina House of Representatives to let them know how you feel.

Live in Ohio? Take action here to support HB 183 and SB 103 to abolish the state’s death penalty!

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Death Penalty Action

Death Penalty Action provides high visibility resources, leadership and support in order to stop executions.