By a 5-to-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has lifted a stay of execution for a Virginia killer who argued that the state’s method of lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, the Washington Post reports. A judge now can set an execution date for James Edward Reid, 58, in the 1996 slaying of an 87-year-old woman. Reid’s attorneys asserted that the combination of chemicals Virginia uses to carry out executions could cause the inmate to “consciously suffer an excruciatingly painful and protracted death.” They said the first chemical used in a lethal injection, a fast-acting anesthesia, could quickly wear off as the other drugs are administered. A second chemical paralyzes the inmate, rendering him unable to show pain; they said the third chemical, which causes cardiac arrest, could leave the inmate in extreme pain. Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer dissented.
James Turk, an attorney for Reid, said the defense will file a request for clemency with Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. Turk said Reid’s life should be spared because a car accident left him suffering from brain damage and he has a long history of alcohol abuse. He stabbed the woman with scissors and struck her on the head with a can of milk, say court documents state. He also took off her clothes and ransacked her bedroom.