Court OKs automatic solitary for Virginia death row inmates

STATE-NEWSRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A divided federal appeals court has upheld Virginia’s policy of automatically holding death row inmates in solitary confinement. In a 2-1 ruling Tuesday, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge’s finding that the policy violates inmates’ due process rights. The policy was challenged by Alfredo Prieto, who was sentenced to death for the 1988 murders of two George Washington University students in Reston. The appeals court’s majority said prison officials are entitled to broad latitude in establishing death row security procedures. Judge James Wynn said in a dissenting opinion that inmates should have an opportunity to argue that they don’t belong in solitary confinement. Nearly all the nation’s 32 death rows have some form of isolation, but it’s unclear how many impose it automatically.

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