West Virginia

General Information

Death Penalty: No
Date of Abolition: 1965

Capital: Charleston
Population: 1,852,994
Governor: Earl Ray Tomblin
Legislative Information: Senate and House of Representatives


DPIC's State Database for information on executions, death row population and other statistics in West Virginia
History of the Death Penalty

Blackwater Falls State Park.  Photo by Maggie Louden.

History of the Death Penalty

Prior to 1899, executions in West Virginia were public and were carried out at the county level with minimal state involvement. Starting in 1899, all executions were carried out privately in the West Virginia Penitentiary. All executions carried out before 1950 were hangings. This changed with the introduction of the electic chair, which became the new method of execution in 1951. Ninety-four executions occured between 1899, when executions were made a state responsibility, and 1959, the year of the last execution in West Virginia. All of those executed were men. West Virginia abolished the death penalty in 1965.

Notable cases

Elmer Brunner was the last man executed in West Virginia. Convicted for the murder of an elderly woman, Brunner was electrocuted on April 3, 1959. His execution was delayed for about two years due to his appeals to the West Virginia Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Milestones in abolition/reinstatement

West Virginia attempted to abolish the death penalty multiple times before a bill outlawing the death penalty passed in 1965. It was the last state to abolish the death penalty before Furman v Georgia.

Motions to reinstate the death penalty have appeared in the West Virginia legislature, but attempts have never been successful. A bill was proposed in February of 2011 that sparked debate over reinstatement, but the bill did not pass.


Department of Corrections


Public defender's office

ACLU of West Virginia

Victims' services



Mailboxes on Goa Way, Hedgesville. Photo by Simone McDill.

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