VIRGINIA: Killer scheduled to die today
RICHMOND — A man who beat a co-worker to death with a lamp and then claimed Virginia's method of executing prisoners by lethal injection was inhumane was scheduled to die today at 9 p.m. unless a federal appeals court or the governor give him more time to make his argument.
Earlier this month, a divided three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Christopher Scott Emmett's argument that Virginia's use of lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment because of the possibility that paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs could be administered before inmates are rendered unconscious by another drug.
Emmett's lawyers have asked the full court to hear his appeal. They also have asked Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to block the execution.
Emmett's appeal was the first to require a federal appeals court to interpret a U.S. Supreme Court decision in April that upheld Kentucky's method of lethal injection and apply it to another state's procedures.
The 4th Circuit panel found that Virginia's protocol for delivering the three-drug lethal cocktail was similar enough to Kentucky's that it would not cause inmates excruciating pain.
Unlike Kentucky, Virginia does not allow for a second dose of sodium thiopental, which results in a deep, coma-like unconsciousness, even when a second round of the other drugs is required.
Virginia also administers the three drugs more quickly than Kentucky corrections officials.
In 10 of the 70 lethal injections performed in Virginia before this year, a second dose of the last two drugs was given because the inmate did not die within a few minutes after the heart-stopping drug was administered, according to court papers.
Although most inmates are pronounced dead within five minutes after the first drug is administered, the last two inmates executed in Virginia took approximately 10 minutes and 15 minutes to die, respectively.
Department of Corrections officials will not confirm whether a second dose of drugs was given to those men.
Kaine stopped Emmett's execution in June 2007 so the U.S. Supreme Court would have time to consider his appeal, which it later rejected. Then in October, Emmett's execution was one of dozens halted by the Supreme Court while it considered the Kentucky lethal injection challenge.
Emmett, 36, and John Fenton Langley were sharing a room in a Danville motel in April of 2001 as part of an out-of-town roofing crew. On the night Langley was killed, he bought food and grilled for Emmett and other co-workers. They then played cards at the motel. Later as Langley slept, Emmett beat him to death with a brass lamp so he could steal Langley's wallet to buy crack cocaine.
"My brother died a horrible, horrible death," said Gene Langley, 48, of Rocky Mount, N.C. "Christopher, he was a coward. ... He needs to be punished."
Gene Langley and six other family members, including John Langley's adult daughter and son, plan to witness Emmett's execution.
"It's not going to bring my brother back by no means in this world, but it does not allow him to live and that's what I'm after," Gene Langley said.
"He didn't kill one person, he killed five — he killed a brother, he killed a son, he killed an uncle, he killed a father, and he killed a grandfather," he said.