- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday voted 5-4 to allow Virginia to execute a man who claimed putting him to death by injection would be unconstitutionally cruel.

James Edward Reid was sentenced to death for the 1966 killing of an 80-year-old woman who was beaten, strangled and stabbed 22 times.

In the brief order, the justices gave no reason for lifting a stay of execution that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted to Reid on Dec. 17, the day before he was scheduled to die for the slaying of Annie Mae Lester in Christiansburg.

The appeals court had granted the stay to await a Supreme Court decision in the case of an Alabama inmate who claimed his veins were so damaged by drug use that executioners might have to cut deeply into his flesh to administer lethal drugs, making the procedure unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in May that the Alabama inmate can pursue that claim.

Reid’s attorneys had argued that Virginia prison officials were not able to access a vein in his arm.

Lethal injection is used in 37 states, largely because it is considered more humane than the electric chair, firing squad, gas chamber or hanging.

In yesterday’s ruling, the four justices who voted against lifting the stay were the more liberal members of the court: Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

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