On December 15, 2003, James Edward Reid, a prisoner on death row in Virginia, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Virginia Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Reid, who filed the complaint three days prior to his scheduled ...
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On December 15, 2003, James Edward Reid, a prisoner on death row in Virginia, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Virginia Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Reid, who filed the complaint three days prior to his scheduled execution, argued that the lethal injection method used by Virginia would violate his constitutional rights by subjecting him to a high level of pain and suffering in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
The day after the complaint was filed, the District Court (Judge James R. Spencer) dismissed the complaint and closed the case, finding that this was an unauthorized successive habeas petition, and that the plaintiff should have raised this issue in his earlier lawsuit.
The plaintiff appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a stay of execution so that it could consider the merits of the appeal. The defendants appealed the stay of execution order, and the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the order staying the execution.
On August 2, 2004, after the Supreme Court vacated the stay of execution, the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion remanding the case back to the District Court for reconsideration in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Nelson v. Campbell, 124 S.Ct. 2117 (2004), which was decided after the District Court's decision in this case. In Nelson, the Supreme Court found that § 1983 was an appropriate vehicle for some challenges to state execution methods, and that not all such challenges are habeas claims, and the Fourth Circuit found that this case needed reconsideration in light of that ruling. Reid v. Johnson, 105 Fed.Appx. 500 (4th Cir. 2004).
On September 3, 2004, the District Court (Judge Henry E. Hudson) held that the plaintiff was not likely to suffer irreparable harm as a result of Virginia's lethal injection method and declined to issue a preliminary injunction. Reid v. Johnson, 333 F.Supp.2d 543 (E.D.Va. 2004). Reid appealed, and six days later, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision.
On September 9, 2004, James Edward Reid was executed by lethal injection. On October 22, 2004, the District Court (Judge Spencer) dismissed the case as moot. Reid v. Johnson, No. 03-1039, 2004 WL 3789373 (E.D.Va. Oct. 22, 2004).Kristen Sagar - 09/17/2007