A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Virginia's method of executing inmates by lethal injection, ruling that it prevents them from experiencing excruciating pain.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected condemned inmate Christopher Scott Emmett's argument that Virginia's procedure was unconstitutional.
Emmett's lawyers claimed the procedure risks substantial harm because it does not allow for a second dose of anesthesia to make sure an inmate is unconscious before paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs are injected.
The appeals court said there is no evidence that the first dose of anesthesia has ever failed to render an inmate unconscious.
The ruling came on the day another Virginia inmate — Kent Jermaine Jackson — was executed by lethal injection for killing his 79-year-old neighbor. The 26-year-old Jackson, sentenced to death for the 2000 killing of Beulah Mae Kaiser, was pronounced dead at 9:18 p.m.
Emmett is scheduled to be executed July 24 for the 2001 bludgeoning death of a co-worker in Danville.
The appeals court said Virginia's protocol for administering the three-drug concoction is "largely identical" to that of Kentucky, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in April.