South Carolina executes man in electric chair

MIAMI Sat Jun 21, 2008 12:39am EDT

MIAMI (Reuters) - South Carolina on Friday electrocuted a man for murdering his ex-girlfriend's parents in 1994, the second execution in the state since a Supreme Court ruling lifted a de facto national moratorium, a state official said.

James Earl Reed, 49, was convicted in 1996 of shooting Joseph and Barbara Lafayette multiple times, including execution-style shots in the heads, after they refused to tell him where their daughter was. He had dismissed his attorney during his trial and tried to defend himself in court.

"The execution of James Earl Reed was carried out at 11:27 p.m.," state prison spokesman Josh Gelinas said.

The execution had been scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT but was halted at the last minute and delayed for nearly 5 1/2 hours while lawyers made final appeals.

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately cleared the way for the execution.

Reed became the eighth person to be put to death in the United States since the high court in April rejected a legal challenge to the three-drug cocktail used in most executions for the past 30 years.

Reed chose to die in the electric chair, the first death row inmate in South Carolina in more than four years to choose electrocution over lethal injection.

Most states use lethal injection as their primary method of execution. But some, like South Carolina, give death row inmates other options, like the electric chair, or gas chamber. Hanging and firing squad are still used in a small number of states.

In April, the Supreme Court rejected by a vote of 7-2 a challenge by two Kentucky death row inmates who argued the current lethal injection method inflicts needless pain and suffering in violation of a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Executions were put on hold across the country while the high court mulled the case.

Since its ruling, executions have been carried out in Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

(Reporting by Jim Loney, Editing by Anthony Boadle)