For the better part of three decades, Virginia operated one of the busiest execution chambers in the nation. Not anymore.

Statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center show that Virginia has sent only six people to death row in the last nine years after sending 40 over the previous eight years. As a result, the state only has eight inmates awaiting execution — down from a high of 57 in 1995.

Virginia has slipped from second to third nationally — behind Texas and Oklahoma — with 110 executions since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Experts say a big reason for the decline is the establishment in 2004 of four regional capital defender offices to improve legal representation of people facing a possible death sentence.