In April, 2001 John Langley was working on a roofing job in Danville, Virginia, and he shared a motel room with Christopher Emmett. He loaned Emmett some money, which Emmett used to buy cocaine. When Mr. Langley refused to loan him more, Emmett bashed his head in with a brass lamp. Punishment for this crime will not be carried out as scheduled tonight but will be delayed a few more months.
There is no doubt of guilt in this case. Mr. Langley's blood was on Emmett's boots and clothing, and Emmett made a full, taped confession after receiving Miranda warnings. The primary issue, as described in the Fourth Circuit opinion, was the standard claim that trial counsel was ineffective for not presenting enough of the abuse excuse.
The Supreme Court denied a stay today, but four Justices said they would grant one. The Governor of Virginia granted a reprieve to allow the certiorari petition to be fully considered in the usual course.
Mr. Langley's family is understandably disappointed, according to this AP story by Kristen Gelineau. However, the case has proceeded relatively swiftly in six years from crime to federal habeas appeal. That is about right for a case with no colorable claim of innocence.