There has not been an execution in Virginia since 1962, but state law prescribes in detail how capital punishment is to be meted out. This is the official way of death in Virginia:
Fifteen days before the scheduled date of execution the condemned person is brought from Mecklenburg Correctional Center in the southwestern part of the state to a cell near the death chamber in the basement of the state penitentiary in Richmond. Two guards begin watching him around the clock.
Four days before the execution, members of a special nine-man death team test the electric chair.
One day before the execution, they soak the leather headpiece and legpiece in clear water for 3 hours, then squeeze out the excess. They prepare a saltwater solution. They ensure that the required 12 chairs are placed in the witness room from which the electric chair can be seen through a window.
On the day of the execution, the constant watch over the condemned is doubled. His head is shaved. Team members test the telephone in the witness room.
The execution is scheduled for midnight. In the last hour, equipment and circuitry undergo a last test. The headpiece and legpiece are placed in the saltwater.
Fifteen minutes before the execution, a team member picks up the phone in the witness room and telephones the governor. An aide to the governor takes the call and remains on the open line with the team member, who keeps one hand on a safety switch.
The executioner -- an unidentified member of the team -- assures that all is in order and retires to a closed control room adjacent to the death chamber.
The witnesses -- six prison officials and six members of the public -- are seated.
Three team members fetch the condemned, who has been given a last meal of his choice. They escort him from his cell to the door of the death chamber, where the warden reads him the sentence and allows him to speak his last words.
The condemned then is strapped into the massive oak chair in which 236 men died between 1908 and 1962, when Virginia's last execution took place. The headpiece and legpiece, wet with electricity-conducting saltwater, are secured in place.
If there is no reprieve from the governor, the team member on the telephone turns a key to signal the executioner to proceed.
The executioner pushes a button, sending 2,500 volts of electricity through the body of the condemned.