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Death Penalty: Yes
Great Falls National Park. Photo by Kenneth England
History of the Death Penalty
"DC sniper": John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were both tried in Virginia for a series of shootings in October 2002. Although the crimes occurred in Maryland and Washington, DC, as well as Virginia, the first trials were held in Virginia, in part, because Virginia allowed the execution of juveniles. Malvo was 17 at the time of the crimes. Muhammad was executed on November 10, 2009. Malvo is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Daryl Atkins was sentenced to death for the abduction and murder of Eric Nesbitt. Atkins appealed his sentence, claiming that his intellectual disability made him ineligible for execution. Atkins' appeal was heard by the Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), and the Court held that the execution of "mentally retarded" defendants is unconstitutional. At a subsequent hearing to determine whether Atkins was eligible for the death penalty, the jury credited controversial prosecution evidence and rejected Atkins' claim of intellectual disability. However, after it was disclosed that evidence had been improperly withheld from the defense in the case, the prosecution agreed to withdraw the death penalty and Atkins was resentenced to life without parole.
Earl Washington was pardoned in 2000 after DNA evidence excluded him as a perpetrator in the rape and murder for which he had been sentenced to death. Washington is intellectually disabled, and had been coerced into confessing to the crime.
The first execution in what is now the United States took place in Virginia. Captain George Kendall was executed in the Jamestown colony in 1608 for spying for Spain.
Other interesting facts
Virginia has executed more people in its history than any other state.
On February 2, 1951, 5 inmates were executed, the largest number of executions carried out on a single day in Virginia.