The Supreme Court on Wednesday halted Virginia’s planned execution of a man who murdered a co-worker.
Virginia had prepared to execute Christopher Scott Emmett, 36, even as several other states stopped executions after the high court agreed to review claims that the method of death is unconstitutionally cruel.
Emmett had been scheduled to be put to death Wednesday night at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va., for the 2001 bludgeoning murder of a co-worker, John Fenton Langley.
The stay granted by the court will last until a Richmond, Va.-based federal appeals court takes another look at the case. The justices did not comment further on their order.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Killer Emmett’s latest appeal denied:
Unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants a stay or Gov. Timothy M. Kaine steps in a second time, Christopher Scott Emmett will die by lethal injection tomorrow night.
Emmett won a reprieve in June two hours before he was to be executed when Kaine delayed it until Oct. 17 to give the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to consider hearing his appeal. The justices declined.
However, on Sept. 25, the high court agreed to hear challenges to the constitutionality of lethal-injection procedures in Kentucky, procedures similar to those used in Virginia and other states that use lethal injection.
There was an execution in Texas on Sept. 25 but none in the U.S. since.
Yesterday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Emmett’s request for a stay. But another federal appeals court stayed an execution set for today in Arkansas. And an execution scheduled for last night in Nevada was halted by the Nevada Supreme Court 90 minutes before it was to take place, according to The Associated Press.
Emmett’s lawyers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court and Kaine to stop the execution until the high court rules on whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
In papers filed yesterday, the Virginia attorney general’s office urged the justices to reject the request for a stay, arguing it was foot-dragging. Emmett, the state says, never challenged his method of execution during his trial or in prior appeals.
Kevin Hall, a Kaine spokesman, said yesterday that “we’re closely monitoring court activity, and the governor is still weighing the updated clemency requests from Emmett’s attorneys.”
Emmett was sentenced to die for the April 2001 slaying of John F. Langley, 43, of Roanoke Rapids, N.C. The two men worked for a roofing company in Roanoke Rapids and were staying in a Danville motel during a project. Emmett beat Langley to death with a brass lamp for drug money.
In addition to asking Kaine for a reprieve, Emmett’s lawyers also asked him to order an administrative review of the state’s current lethal-injection protocol. Kaine opposes capital punishment but has said he believes lethal injection is constitutional.
Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said he believes condemned inmates seeking reprieves until the Supreme Court rules will be successful.
Uh, where’s a quote from people that support the death penalty since you want to get quotes from people that oppose the death penalty?
If executed, Emmett would be the 99th person put to death in Virginia — 70 by lethal injection — since capital punishment was allowed to resume in 1976.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. execution in ’06 bungled, attorneys say:
Virginia bungled a lethal injection last year, leading to a prolonged execution, lawyers for condemned killer Christopher Scott Emmett contend in an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Emmett is facing execution Wednesday night for the April 2001 slaying of John F. Langley, 43, of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., a co-worker he beat to death with a brass lamp for drug money.
Among other things, Emmett’s lawyers say the executioners of John Yancey Schmitt on Nov. 9 administered the lethal combination of drugs twice. It took 13 minutes for him to die, longer than the other 70 lethal injections performed in Virginia.
Matthew Engle, one of Emmett’s lawyers, said that because the inmates die and because of the masking effect of one of the drugs, inmates can appear calm and serene even if they are suffering.
“It’s impossible to prove” under the circumstances, he said.
Let’s me provide you with some context about these two pieces of excrement; first, John Yancey Schmitt (from John Yancey Schmitt v. Commonwealth of Virginia, June 8, 2001) [emphasis mine throughout]:
Schmitt was indicted for capital murder based on the willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of Earl Shelton Dunning during the commission of a robbery, in violation of Code § 18.2-31(4). Schmitt also was indicted for armed entry of a bank with the intent to commit larceny, in violation of Code § 18.2-93; two counts of robbery, in violation of Code § 18.2-58; and three counts of use of a firearm, in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1.
In the first stage of a bifurcated trial conducted under Code § 19.2-264.3, a jury convicted Schmitt of all the offenses charged. In the penalty phase of the trial, the jury fixed his punishment for capital murder at death based on a finding of “future dangerousness,” and for the other offenses at imprisonment for a total of 118 years. The trial court sentenced Schmitt in accordance with the jury verdict.
On February 17, 1999, Earl Shelton Dunning was shot and killed while working as a security guard at the Bon Air branch of NationsBank (the bank) on Buford Road in Chesterfield County. About a month before Dunning was killed, Schmitt had robbed this same bank and, after that robbery, the bank had hired Dunning to work as a security guard.
Shortly after 1:00 p.m. on February 17, 1999, a man entered the bank wearing dark sunglasses and a bulky jacket. He kept his head lowered and appeared to scan the interior of the bank. Bank manager Sara Parker-Orr testified that she was “nervous” about this man because he was wearing sunglasses inside the bank on a “really cloudy day.” Dunning was outside the bank and, after the man went inside, Dunning entered the bank and walked across the lobby to stand at the end of the “teller line” in which customers were waiting.
The man stood in the teller line behind several customers. Parker-Orr watched him leave his place in line and walk toward Dunning. When the man was within “a foot or so” of Dunning, Parker-Orr heard two gunshots and then heard someone scream, “[G]et down, get down.”
The man next approached Parker-Orr’s teller window and banged on the counter yelling, “Money, give me money,” and “[I]f I don’t get money, I’m going to kill everybody.” Parker-Orr opened her cash drawer and threw money into a black plastic bag that the robber was holding.
The robber continued to bang on the counter demanding “more money.” He announced that he would give the tellers “ten seconds” to give him more money, and began counting backward from the number “ten.” By the time he reached “nine,” teller Marlene Austin was “throwing money in the bag.” Parker-Orr also gave him money from a third teller’s drawer. When she told the robber that she had no more money to give him, the robber left the bank.
The bank’s security camera system recorded photographs of Schmitt approaching the end of the teller counter and standing at a teller window holding a bag and pointing a gun. None of the witnesses who testified at trial saw the actual shooting of Dunning, and the shooting was not recorded by the bank’s security camera system. However, Parker-Orr, Austin, and Kelli Konstaitis, another teller, all identified a photograph of Schmitt recorded by the bank’s security camera system as depicting the man who robbed the bank that day.
After Schmitt left the bank, witnesses telephoned the “911” emergency response number and attended to Dunning, who was lying on the floor. By the time emergency medical personnel arrived, Dunning was dead. The witnesses in the bank testified that they did not touch or see anyone else touch Dunning’s gun or its holster. Dunning’s gun was found in its holster, which was closed and snapped.
An autopsy revealed that Dunning was killed as a result of a gunshot wound to his chest. The bullet entered the right side of Dunning’s chest, causing significant injuries to the aorta, and exited from the right side of his back.
During the penalty phase of the trial, the Commonwealth presented evidence of Schmitt’s criminal record. Between 1992 and 1996, Schmitt was convicted twice of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, and also had convictions of receiving stolen property, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of marijuana. Schmitt was on probation for some of these offenses at the time of the capital murder and robbery. He had failed to keep the conditions of his probation requiring him to have regular drug tests and to meet with his probation officer and, as a result, a capias had been issued for his arrest prior to both bank robberies.
In the earlier robbery of the bank on January 19, 1999, Schmitt and another man had stolen over $65,000. Schmitt was armed with a sawed-off shotgun in that robbery. The Commonwealth presented evidence that before the first robbery, police were called to investigate an argument between Schmitt and a girlfriend involving a shotgun, and that Schmitt had “sawed off” the barrel of the gun the night before the first bank robbery.
The Commonwealth also presented evidence of a tape recording of a telephone conversation between Schmitt and a friend in which Schmitt described the present offenses. In addition, the Commonwealth introduced evidence of the “drug dealer lifestyle” that Schmitt had been leading in the months before he committed the present offenses.
The Commonwealth presented testimony from Dunning’s family and friends concerning the impact of Dunning’s murder on them. Dunning’s mother and brother testified that in January 1999, a month before his murder, Dunning had retired from the United States Army after over 20 years of service, and that he had received many commendations honoring his bravery and leadership while in military service. The Commonwealth also presented testimony that Dunning had three children and that he had planned to marry in March 1999. Several bank employees testified that during the few weeks that Dunning worked at the bank, he had developed close relationships with his fellow employees that demonstrated extraordinary thoughtfulness and generosity.
So, Mr. Engle, how much suffering did Earl Dunning and his family experience?
And now, more about Christopher Scott Emmett (from Christopher Scott Emmett v. Commonwealth of Virginia, September 13, 2002) [emphasis mine]:
In a bifurcated trial conducted pursuant to Code § 19.2-264.3, a jury convicted Christopher Scott Emmett of the capital murder of John Fenton Langley in the commission of robbery, Code § 18.2-31(4), and fixed Emmett’s punishment at death.
Weldon Roofing Company employed Emmett and Langley as laborers for its roofing crews. During late April 2001, both men were assigned to a project in the City of Danville and shared a room at a local motel where the roofing crew was staying. On the evening of April 26, 2001, Emmett, Langley, Michael Darryl Pittman, and other members of the roofing crew cooked dinner on a grill at the motel, played cards, and drank beer. During the course of the evening, Langley loaned money to Emmett and Pittman, who used the money to buy crack cocaine.
At approximately 11:00 p.m. that evening, Rainey Bell, another member of the roofing crew, heard a noise he described as “bang, bang” coming from the room Emmett and Langley shared. Shortly after midnight, Emmett went to the motel office and asked the clerk to call the police, saying that he had returned to his room, “seen blood and stuff . . . and didn’t know what had took place.”
The police arrived at the motel at 12:46 a.m. on April 27, 2001 and accompanied Emmett back to his room. There they discovered Langley’s dead body lying face down on Langley’s bed beneath a comforter. Blood spatters were found on the sheets and headboard of Langley’s bed, on the wall behind it, and on the wall between the bathroom and Emmett’s bed. A damaged brass lamp stained with Langley’s blood was discovered beneath Langley’s bed.
In his initial statement to police, Emmett denied killing Langley. He stated that he had returned to the room and gone to bed. Emmett claimed to have discovered the blood and Langley’s body later that night when he got up to use the bathroom. Observing what appeared to be bloodstains on Emmett’s personal effects, the police took possession of Emmett’s boots and clothing with his permission. Emmett suggested that the blood might be his own because he had injured himself earlier in the week. Subsequent testing, however, revealed that Emmett’s boots and clothing were stained with Langley’s blood.
He first implicated Pittman as Langley’s murderer, but ultimately Emmett told the police that he alone had beaten Langley to death with the brass lamp.
Emmett was given Miranda warnings and he gave a full, taped confession. Emmett stated that he and Pittman decided to rob Langley after Langley refused to loan them more money to buy additional cocaine. Emmett stated that he struck Langley five or six times with the brass lamp, took Langley’s wallet, and left the motel to buy cocaine.
In addition, the Commonwealth presented evidence from the medical examiner that based upon the amount of blood and bruising of the victim’s brain tissue at the point of impact, Langley was not killed immediately by the first blow from the lamp. The medical examiner conceded, however, that Langley might have been unconscious after the first blow was struck and may have suffered “brain death” prior to actual death.
After the jury convicted Emmett of capital murder and robbery, during the penalty-determination phase of the trial, the Commonwealth presented evidence of Emmett’s prior criminal history. This evidence included an account of an instance in which, while incarcerated in a maximum-security juvenile detention facility, Emmett participated in an escape that involved a guard being “rushed” and locked in a closet. In addition, the criminal history evidence showed that while driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, Emmett was involved in an accident in which the driver of a motorcycle was killed in 1996. After the accident Emmett said “that there was no need to worry about the man on the motorcycle. He was already dead, and that [Emmett] could do nothing to help him.” Emmett was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Indeed, Emmett himself confessed that he killed Langley simply because it “just seemed right at the time.”
Again, Mr. Engle, how much suffering did John Langley experience while his head was smashed in with a brass lamp? How about the motorcycle rider that had already been killed by your client?
If only your client receives the same amount of suffering as his victims and their families have received.
Only five years apparently, from the San Jose Mercury News: Private eye gets five years for fake documents in death row cases [emphasis mine throughout]:
Death penalty investigator Kathleen Culhane said she recognized from the start that she was breaking the law when she systematically faked more than two dozen documents in an attempt to derail fast-approaching executions.
Her goal was to buy the condemned inmates more time. And in that she succeeded, prosecutors said, forcing attorneys to retrace her steps to make sure she didn’t do more to undermine the state’s legal system.
Culhane, 40, smiled slightly Thursday as she was led away in handcuffs to begin serving a five-year prison term for two counts of forgery and single counts of perjury and filing false documents. Her attorney said she is likely to actually serve about two years and eight months.
Under a plea agreement, the former San Francisco-based investigator avoided a possible 19 years in prison on 45 counts. She originally was charged with filing false documents under the names of 11 jurors, two witnesses, two court interpreters and one police officer.
A defiant Culhane used her sentencing hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court to criticize at length a justice system she was sworn to serve.
Though trained as a lawyer, Culhane worked as a private investigator for Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco and for private attorneys defending condemned inmates in the final stages of their court appeals and in last-ditch clemency appeals to California governors.
She said she started making up statements from real witnesses and jurors and forging their signatures on documents favorable to condemned murderers out of her belief that the death penalty is often disproportionately applied to racial minorities and the poor.
She got away with it for years.
Investigators eventually found that Culhane filed at least 23 fraudulent documents to help four death row inmates between November 2002 and February 2006. They say she faked documents for a fifth inmate as well, but those allegations were dropped as part of her plea agreement.
She was discovered after Michael Morales petitioned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency as he was about to be executed last year for the 1981 rape and murder of a Central Valley teenager.
San Joaquin County prosecutors challenged six documents provided by Culhane. They found jurors who swore they had never spoken with Culhane and said they supported Morales’ death sentence.
San Joaquin Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau, who attended Thursday’s sentencing, said it is ironic that Morales’ execution has since been stayed because of concerns about the state’s lethal injection method—an issue that was not related to Culhane. Morales is on death row for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Terri Winchell.
In addition to Morales, the other three death-row inmates named in Culhane’s charges are: Jose Guerra, convicted by a Los Angeles County jury for the 1990 rape and murder of Kathleen Powell; Vicente Figueroa Benavides, convicted by a Kern County jury for the 1991 murder and rape of a 21-month-old child; and Christian Monterroso, convicted by an Orange County jury for the 1991 murders of Tarsem Singh and Ashokkumar Patel and the attempted murder of Allen Canellas.
Each remains on death row with pending appeals.