- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

RICHMOND — A federal judge yesterday refused to stay the execution of Dexter Lee Vinson, who challenged Virginia’s method of lethal injection.

Vinson, 42, is scheduled to die April 27 for sexually assaulting and killing his former girlfriend, Angela Felton, in Portsmouth in 1997.

After a 45-minute hearing, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that nothing has changed since he upheld the state’s lethal injection procedures in the case of James Edward Reid, who was the last Virginia inmate executed, in September 2004.

“I don’t believe any new issues have been raised here,” Judge Hudson said in granting the state’s motion to dismiss Vinson’s petition for a stay of execution.

Vinson’s attorney, Rob Lee, said he will consider appealing the ruling after reading a written opinion that Judge Hudson said he could issue as early as today. Vinson also has asked Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole.

In Reid’s case, attorneys argued that Virginia’s method of execution was unconstitutionally cruel because he could still be conscious when the last of three drugs is administered and would feel pain before he died.

Vinson’s attorneys expanded that argument to include the secret protocol used to administer the drugs. Mr. Lee said Vinson had a right to look for any “unreasonable risks” or potential for negligence in the procedure, and he could not do that without knowing the details.

Judge Hudson said he knew of no law in any state requiring “informed consent” for an execution.

Under state law, Vinson could have chosen electrocution instead of lethal injection. He declined to choose, automatically triggering the injection method.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Katherine Baldwin argued that an inmate cannot challenge the method of his impending execution when he could have opted for another method that courts have ruled constitutional.

She also said Vinson’s claims lacked merit and that he raised his claims too late in a last-ditch effort to avoid execution.

“Virginia has executed 66 inmates with lethal injection and has never had a problem,” Miss Baldwin said.

Virginia has executed 94 inmates since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Only Texas, with 362, has executed more.

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