A killer who argued Virginia's procedures for lethal injection were unconstitutional was executed Thursday after a federal appeals court upheld the primary method of capital punishment in the nation's second-busiest death chamber.
Christopher Scott Emmett, 36, was pronounced dead at 9:07 p.m. He was convicted of beating a co-worker to death with a brass lamp in 2001 so he could steal the man's money to buy crack cocaine.
Emmett's appeal was the first to require a federal appeals court to interpret a U.S. Supreme Court decision in April that upheld Kentucky's three-drug method of lethal injection and apply it to another state's procedures.
Gov. Tim Kaine declined to intervene with the sentence being carried out.
"Tell my family and friends I love them, tell the governor he just lost my vote," Emmett said in the chamber before he died. "Y'all hurry this along, I'm dying to get out of here."
The lethal injection appeared to go as planned. Emmett was pronounced dead about five minutes after he was first sedated.
His attorneys claimed that Virginia's use of lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment because of the possibility that paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs could be administered before inmates are rendered unconscious by another drug.
Unlike Kentucky, Virginia does not allow for a second dose of sodium thiopental, which results in a deep, coma-like unconsciousness, even when a second round of the other drugs is required. Virginia also administers the three drugs more quickly than Kentucky.
In 10 of the 70 lethal injections performed in Virginia before this year, a second dose of the last two drugs was given because the inmate did not die within a few minutes after the heart-stopping drug was administered, according to court papers.
Earlier this month, a divided panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that Virginia's protocol was similar enough to Kentucky's that it would not cause inmates excruciating pain. Emmett's attorneys had asked the full court to review the case, but justices voted 6-4 against the full hearing.
Judge Roger Gregory, writing in favor of the full court hearing Emmett's appeal, said that the Supreme Court found the sodium thiopental "essential to the humanity of Kentucky's procedure," and that Virginia did not offer safeguards comparable to those used in Kentucky to ensure that inmates didn't experience excruciating pain.
Emmett was the 102nd inmate executed in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Only Texas has executed more prisoners.