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Judge: Va. death row procedures unconstitutional

Friday - 1/10/2014, 7:19pm  ET

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A federal judge has ruled that Virginia cannot automatically hold prisoners convicted of capital murder on "death row," where the harsh conditions and solitary confinement amount to an unconstitutional denial of due process.

U.S. District Judge Leonie (LAY-uh-nee) Brinkema issued the ruling in November on behalf of Alfredo Prieto, sentenced to death in 2010 by a Fairfax County jury for the 1988 murder of two George Washington University students.

On Friday, she rejected a request from Virginia that she temporarily delay implementation of her order. She told Virginia lawyers that inmates awaiting execution can be held in solitary confinement if there is a particular need. But the current policy of automatically keeping those inmates in solitary confinement on death row violates their right to due process.

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