RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A law professor says Virginia is seeing fewer death sentences, at least partly due to more vigorous legal representation during the sentencing phase of capital murder trials.
His findings track with what experts say has happened in some other states.
Brandon Garrett of the University of Virginia released results of his study Monday.
Garrett compared the 21 capital murder trials since 2005 to a group of 20 such trials from 1996 to 2004. He found that the sentencing phase, on average, lasted about twice as long in more recent trials than in the older ones. That's because defense lawyers are calling more witnesses than before to present evidence that could help their client.
More than half the recent trials resulted in life sentences — double the previous rate.