Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stay of Execution for Christopher Scott Emmett

Great news for abolitionists. Just two hours before he was scheduled to die, Gov. Tim Kaine granted Christopher Scott Emmett a stay of execution until October. In a statement released tonight, the governor said:
Basic fairness demands that condemned inmates be allowed the opportunity to complete legal appeals prior to execution."
Mr. Emmett confessed to robbing and killing his co-worker, John Langley, during a crack cocaine binge. A jury convicted Emmett of capital murder and during the penalty phase, his court appointed attorney unfortunately failed to present the overwhelming mitigating evidence of his "extremely chaotic, abusive, and neglectful" childhood that might have led the jury to spare his life.

Defense filed a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court asking them to stay the execution, and review the conviction and sentence. The Court refused to stay the execution, even though four justices voted in favor of the motion. However, under the "rule of four," writ is granted when four justices agree to accept an appeal.

"The Court does not expect to consider his appeal until late September," Kaine said, so "basic fairness" demands that Emmett be allowed to complete these legal appeals.

Emmett wants the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court's decision in his case. "

Allowing Emmett's execution to go forward before the Supreme Court rules on his appeal would foreclose any additional review of his case. The irreversibility of an execution and the fact that four Justices of the Court believe a stay is needed to consider the appeal warrant my intervention in this case," Kaine said.

The clemency petition to Kaine included an affidavit from three jurors who wrote that they wish they had known of Emmett's "impoverished childhood" before they handed down the ultimate punishment. "If I had been presented with the evidence, I would not have voted for the death penalty," one juror wrote. It only takes one juror to block a death penalty sentence.

Earlier, the Supreme Court of Virginia unanimously ruled "that representation provided to Emmett by his trial counsel ‘fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.'" Nonetheless, the Court refused Mr. Emmett a new penalty trial.

Kaine's reprieve until Oct. 17, 2007, is designed to allow the High Court to rule on the appeal. Although the Virginia governor morally opposes capital punishment, he has signed the death warrants of Dexter Vinson, Brandon Hedrick, Michael Lenz and John Yancey Schmitt since taking office on January 14, 2006.

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