Saturday, September 29, 2007

Christopher Scott Emmett Not Likely to be Executed on Oct. 17

Readers may recall that Gov. Tim Kaine stayed the scheduled execution of Christopher Scott Emmett back in June so that he could have the "opportunity to complete legal appeals prior to execution."

With the Supreme Court blocking the execution of Texas death row inmate Carlton Turner Jr., and also agreeing to hear the case of two death row inmates in Kentucky as to the constitutionality of lethal injection, it looks as if Mr. Emmett "may escape the needle a second time," Danville & Register Bee reports.

The High Court has yet to rule on Emmett's request for a writ of certiorari that he received inadequate counsel. Four justices consented to hear the case and under the rule of four, a decision is pending. Without Kaine's intervention, however, he would have been executed since five justices were required to stay the execution.

Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Hackett Souter and John Paul Stevens noted that they would have granted Emmett’s request for a reprieve, but that was still one justice shy of the five needed.

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 Virginia Court refused Mr. Emmett a new penalty trial.

The latest challenge to capital punishment has more to do with the way inmates are executed but offers legal claims for all defense counsel.

“The subject (of cruel and unusual punishment) first heated up in California … In this context, the courts are universally holding that the administration of pancuronium and/or potassium - with the resulting pain - to an aware inmate is cruel and unusual punishment,” the statement reads. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the courts will require reasonable assurance that the inmate is adequately anesthetized prior to these injections.
The Supreme Court decision to hear evidence will likely set the constitutional standards in the future for every state with death penalty statutes and the federal government; and yes, that would include Virginia.

H/T Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Update: Talk Left helpfully notes that Texas is to keep the wheels of injustice rolling as reported by the New York Times. And well, why not? If Louisiana can charge a person with capital murder after DNA evidence exonerates him, HL supposes Texas can try to execute as many inmates as possible before the Supreme Court shuts down their death chamber.

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