Virginia now averages less than a single death sentence each year, a far cry from its not-too-distant history as the second most active death penalty state in the nation. The numbers alone tempt us to forecast the death of Virginia's death penalty: a death by disuse. But those numbers leave much of the story untold. The plummeting number of death sentences is only the diminishing tip of a larger, more stable iceberg of capital case litigation. That iceberg is melting very slowly, if at all.
John G. Douglass, Death As a Bargaining Chip: Plea Bargaining and the Future of Virginia's Death Penalty, 49 U. Rich. L. Rev. 873 (2015).