A divided federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of death row inmate Christopher Scott Emmett’s challenge of Virginia’s lethal injection procedures, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The majority in yesterday’s 2-1 ruling said Virginia’s three-drug procedures are similar to those of Kentucky that were were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in April. Judge William B. Traxler Jr., writing for the majority in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, said Virginia’s procedures are properly carried out and that “in the 70 executions previously conducted by Virginia, there have been no reported problems.”
Dissenting Judge Roger Gregory said the majority did not have the facts needed to determine that Virginia’s procedures were substantially similar to Kentucky’s. He said Virginia’s three-drug mix “has the potential to end in quiet, painless death or excruciating, silent torture depending on how drugs are administered.” Emmett alleged that Virginia’s procedures pose an unacceptable risk that the first drug, sodium thiopental, might not render the inmate unconscious, subjecting him to the pain of the other drugs that paralyze and stop the heart.