Since 1977, Virginia Has Set a Swift, Certain Pace for Executions


Since executions resumed in 1977, Virginia has put to death nearly three out of four of its condemned prisoners, the nation’s highest rate, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Texas, which leads the United States in number of executions, is second to Virginia, carrying out less than half its death sentences. In most death-penalty states, the ratio is fewer than 1 in 10. Virginia authorities say its capital-murder law was tightly written and that trial and appeal courts there do a better job than elsewhere; critics argue Virginia trials have plenty of errors that appeals courts fail to catch.

Virginia inmates spend half the time, 7.1 years, from sentencing to execution than the average wait nationally, and the relatively large number of executions and fewer death sentences here has left just 11 killers on death row. Virginia’s tally through 2010 — 108 executions out of 149 death sentences — is in large part a result of fewer reversals, historically at least, by the Virginia Supreme Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. By comparison, California, which has conducted just 13 executions since 1977.

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