Capital punishment in Virginia

Capital Punishment In Virginia

Capital punishment in Virginia

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Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia. In what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia, the first execution in the future United States was carried out in 1608. It was the first of 1,384 executions, the highest total of any state in the Union. For a full list of those executed since 1976 see the list of individuals executed in Virginia.


Hanging was the predominant method for executions before 1909. Other methods had been used during this time — three people convicted of piracy in 1700 were gibbeted, four pirates were hanged in chains in 1720, and a female slave was burned in 1737. From 1909 until 1994, the electric chair was used for all but one execution (that of Joel Payne on April 9, 1909). On February 2, 1951, seven African Americans were executed for rape in one case and another was executed for murder in an unrelated case—the most executions held on a single day in Virginia. On February 5, 1951, the remaining three defendants in the rape case were executed. The youngest person to have been executed in Virginia was Percy Ellis, who at the age of 16 was electrocuted on March 15, 1916. Only two women, Virginia Christian in 1912 and Teresa Lewis in 2010, have been put to death by the state since it took over executions from the counties. The last execution for rape took place on february 17,1961.


After the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Georgia's "guided discretion" laws in Gregg v. Georgia,...
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