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Group Calls On Democratic General Assembly To Abolish Death Penalty In 2020

Rachel Sutphin
Rachel Sutphin's father's murderer was executed in 2017. She's now a vocal opponent of the death penalty. (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM)

The daughter of a slain Sheriff’s Deputy has joined a growing number of Virginians calling on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty. 

Groups opposed to capital punishment are hopeful Virginia’s Democratically-controlled legislature will end the practice. 

The last person to be executed in Virginia was William Morva in 2017. Morva was convicted of killing Montgomery County Cpl. Eric Sutphin and a hospital security guard in 2006. Sutphin’s daughter, Rachel was nine when her father was murdered. She’s now a vocal critic of capital punishment. 

“Mr. Morva’s execution brought no solace to me,” Sutphin said during a press conference Thursday. 

Sutphin said her family was dragged through years of mandatory death sentence appeals and rehashing of the details of her father’s death. 

“Instead a sentence of life in prison without parole offers resolution and legal finality,” she said. 

Sutphin also objected to Morva’s execution because he was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. 

She said she plead with then Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant Morva clemency, but McAuliffe declined.

Michael Stone is the executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. 

“Leaders of almost every faith tradition oppose it,” he said. “Young conservatives increasingly view the death penalty as a misguided public policy by an overreaching government that is unnecessary, expensive, arbitrary and degrading to human life and dignity.

Virginia has executed 113 people since 1976 when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume. That’s second only to Texas. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.