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U.S. Supreme Court stays execution amid lethal injection concerns

  • Story Highlights
  • Christopher Scott Emmett was convicted of killing a co-worker
  • A number of executions have been blocked amid concerns over lethal injection
  • AP: U.S. may have the fewest number of executions in a year since 1996
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the pending execution of a Virginia man convicted of beating a co-worker to death in 2001 for drug money.

It's the latest in a number of executions the court has blocked recently amid questions about the constitutionality of lethal injection -- the primary method of execution in all states with the death penalty.

Christopher Scott Emmett killed co-worker John Langley during a botched robbery in Danville, Virginia, by beating him to death as he slept, then used his cash to buy crack cocaine, according to documents filed in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

He was set to die at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The Supreme Court order stays Emmett's execution pending final disposition of the appeal by the 4th Circuit. But if the 4th Circuit allows the execution to proceed, another round of appeals to the high court would be expected.

The Supreme Court had rejected an earlier stay of execution in June, before agreeing to hear Kentucky cases on the constitutionality of lethal injection. Oral arguments in those cases will be held early next year.

The high court's agreeing to hear the cases, however, has prompted a flood of appeals from capital defendants seeking execution stays or new hearings as a result of the court's intervention.

The justices, meanwhile, have stayed a number of pending executions, presumably until the larger constitutional questions surrounding the method of execution are settled.

With 42 people executed in the United States so far in 2007, the concerns may lead to the fewest number of executions in a year since 1996, when 45 people were put to death in the U.S., according to The Associated Press.

On Friday, Georgia plans to execute Jack Alderman, convicted in the 1974 death of his wife. Alderman's attorneys have filed a last-minute appeal with the Supreme Court. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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