Virginia death row inmate gets stay of execution

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WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) A Virginia death row inmate received a stay of execution today, the latest in a series of reprieves since the US Supreme Court last month agreed to decide a challenge to the lethal injection method.

The Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Christopher Scott Emmett, 36, who had been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 9 p m at the Greensville Correctional Facility in Jarratt, Virginia.

Emmett was sentenced to die for beating a co-worker at a roofing company to death with a brass lamp in 2001 to get cash to buy crack cocaine.

Emmett's lawyers had asked the Supreme Court and Gov Timothy Kaine to stop the execution until the high court rules on whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

On September 25, the high court agreed to decide a challenge to the three-chemical cocktail used under the lethal injection procedures in Kentucky, procedures similar to those used in Virginia and other states.

There was an execution in Texas on September 25. But there have been none in the United States since as courts and state officials have put them on hold in at least six states, including in Texas, which performs the most by far.

Nevada's high court this week granted a reprieve to a death row inmate until the Supreme Court rules in the Kentucky case.

A decision is expected by the middle of next year.

The Virginia attorney general's office had urged the US Supreme Court to reject Emmett's request for a stay. A US appeals court based in Richmond, Virginia, refused to delay the execution.

The Supreme Court in its brief order said, ''The execution of sentence of death is stayed pending final disposition of the appeal by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit or further order of this court.'' It gave no further explanation.

So far this year, 42 people have been executed in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Last year, there were 53 executions.

All but one of the 38 US states with the death penalty and the federal government use lethal injection for executions.

The only exception is Nebraska, which requires electrocution.

REUTERS CS BST0312

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