By CHRISTINA NUCKOLS, The Virginian-Pilot June 14, 2007 RICHMOND
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine delayed the execution Wednesday evening of a man who beat a co-worker to death, saying the state should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court completes its review of the case.
Christopher Scott Emmett, 35, will remain on death row until Oct. 17 under Kaine's ruling.
Emmett confessed to the 2001 murder of John Langley in a Danville hotel. Emmett told police he hit Langley in the head several times with the base of a brass lamp and stole money to purchase crack cocaine.
Kaine issued a written statement saying the death penalty was an "appropriate punishment" in the case, but he noted that the court will not consider Emmett's final appeal until late September.
The court voted 5-4 against halting the execution but Kaine stepped in, arguing, "Basic fairness demands that condemned inmates be allowed the opportunity to complete legal appeals prior to execution."
Attorney General Bob McDonnell, whose office is responsible for defending death sentences on appeal, did not criticize the governor's decision.
"Given the procedural posture of this case in the United States Supreme Court, and considering the interests of justice, I respect the Governor's exercise of this authority," McDonnell said in a statement.
The Virginia Supreme Court concluded in 2004 that Emmett's attorney made serious errors at trial when he failed to object to an incomplete verdict form given to the jury. The jury also was never told about emotional abuse and psychological problems in Emmett's childhood.
However, the state court said those mistakes did not cause the jury to recommend the death penalty.
Kaine has said he is morally opposed to capital punishment but promised as a gubernatorial candidate to follow state death penalty laws. He has allowed four executions and delayed a fifth indefinitely.
In the latter case, Kaine concluded that Percy L. Walton could not constitutionally be executed because he is mentally incompetent, but he held out the possibility that the death penalty may be permissible if Walton's mental state changes.
Christina Nuckols, (804) 697-1562, email@example.com