Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – With an inmate spared execution Wednesday in Virginia, the United States is headed for the fewest executions in a year since the mid-1990s because of concerns over lethal injections and the Supreme Court’s pending review of the issue.

The court blocked Virginia’s plans to kill Christopher Scott Emmett, 36, hours before he was to die by lethal injection. Courts in Nevada and Texas this week also postponed executions scheduled before the end of 2007.

Fewer than 50 executions will take place this year, even if several states pushing ahead with lethal injections defeat legal efforts to stop them. The last time executions numbered fewer than 50 was in 1996, when there were 45.

Since executions resumed in this country in 1977 after a Supreme Court-ordered halt, 1,099 inmates have died in state and federal execution chambers. The highest annual total was 98 in 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

So far this year, 42 people have been executed. Texas, where 26 prisoners have been executed this year, plans no more executions in 2007 after federal and state judges stopped four death sentences from being carried out.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.