RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A lawyer for the state has asked a federal appeals court to approve Virginia’s policy of automatically holding death row inmates in solitary confinement. The Virginia Department of Corrections is appealing a judge’s ruling that automatic around-the-clock isolation violates death row inmates’ due process rights. At a hearing Tuesday, state Solicitor General Stuart Raphael told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it should defer to prison officials’ judgment that death row inmates are so dangerous and such big escape risks that solitary confinement is justified. An attorney for death row inmate Alfredo Prieto said solitary is so extreme that it should be done only after an individual assessment determines it is necessary. The appeals court typically rules a few weeks after hearing arguments.