- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2007

RICHMOND — The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday halted Virginia’s execution of a man who murdered a co-worker just hours before he was to be put to death.

Virginia was preparing to execute Christopher Scott Emmett, 36, even as several other states stopped executions after the high court agreed to review assertions that the lethal injection method is unconstitutionally cruel.

Emmett was slated to die by injection at 9 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt for the 2001 slaying of John Fenton Langley, whom he beat to death with the base of a brass lamp in a Danville motel room.

The stay granted by the court yesterday will last until a Richmond-based federal appeals court takes another look at the case. The justices did not comment further on their order.

“We are pleased that a unanimous court agreed that Scott’s execution should not go forward until questions about the constitutionality of lethal injection have been resolved,” said Emmett’s attorney, Matthew Engle. Emmett has another appeal pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court decided last month to review whether the lethal injection method most states use is cruel and unusual, based on a challenge from two inmates on death row in Kentucky. Virginia uses the same three-drug injection cocktail as Kentucky.

Executions in at least 10 states have been halted as a result of the litigation over lethal injections. On Monday, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a stay for a killer just 90 minutes before he was to be put to death.

But yesterday, Georgia death row inmate Jack Alderman lost another bid to delay his execution as the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected his request for a 90-day stay.

Alderman’s execution is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow. His attorneys, too, sought a stay to sort out legal questions surrounding lethal injection.

Death penalty opponents argue the drugs used in executions don’t always work as quickly as intended, and inmates are subjected to excruciating pain.

The state attorney general’s office has maintained that Virginia’s lethal injection procedures have been reviewed by judges several times and always found to be humane and constitutional.

“The Supreme Court has spoken and we respect the decision,” attorney general spokesman J. Tucker Martin said in response to the high court’s decision.

Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said given the nature of the crime, he had no reason to question the prosecutor’s decision to seek the death penalty or the jury’s decision that death is an appropriate punishment.

Gene Langley Sr. said lethal injection is a far more humane way to die than the manner in which his brother was killed.

“If everybody wants to be concerned about his well-being, think about the way my brother died,” said Mr. Langley, 47, of Rocky Mount, N.C. “He should die the same way that my brother died.”

Mr. Langley and Emmett were friends and worked together in Danville as part of an out-of-town roofing crew. On the night of the murder, Emmett joined Mr. Langley and their co-workers for dinner and a game of cards at their motel.

Later, as Mr. Langley slept, Emmett picked up a lamp and hit the 43-year-old father of two several times in the head. He then took a wallet out of Mr. Langley’s pocket and used the money to buy crack cocaine.

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