General Information

Death Penalty: Yes
Date of Reinstatement (following Furman v. Georgia): October 1, 1975
Location of Death Row: Sussex I State Prison, Waverly
Location of Executions: Greenville Correctional Facility, Jarratt

Capital: Richmond
Population: 8,001,024
Governor: Ralph Northam
Legislative Information: Senate and House of Delegates


Death Sentences 1977-2015
Death Row Exonerations

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

Great Falls National Park.  Photo by Kenneth England

History of the Death Penalty

Executions in Virginia were carried out by hanging for 300 years, until the first electrocution in 1908. The last execution by hanging occurred on April 9, 1909. 

Famous cases

"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.

Notable Exonerations

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.

Virginia "firsts"

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.


Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

American Bar Association Virginia Death Penalty Assessment Report

Department of Corrections

Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center

Victims' services

Commonwealth's Attorneys' Services Counsel

Public defender's office


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