Convict in 1994 killings picks electric chair over injection

A man set to be executed next week for the murders of his ex-girlfriend's parents in their home has chosen to die by electrocution, the Department of Corrections announced Tuesday.

The state Supreme Court has set James Earl Reed's execution date as June 20, Corrections Department spokesman Josh Gelinas said Tuesday.

No one has been put to death in South Carolina's electric chair since 2004, when James Neil Tucker was executed for killing two women 12 years earlier. Under S.C. law, anyone sentenced to death may choose the electric chair or lethal injection.

Reed, 49, acted as his own lawyer during his 1996 trial. He denied the killings, despite his confession to police and three witnesses who said they saw him come out of the couple's home after the shooting.

Prosecutors said Reed killed Joseph and Barbara Lafayette in their Adams Run home in 1994 while he was looking for his ex-girlfriend. Reed denied the killings and argued that no physical evidence placed him at the scene, despite the three witnesses and his confession.

Reed would be the 280th person put to death in South Carolina and the 248th to die in the state's electric chair, which was built in 1912. He would be the third to be electrocuted since the state first offered lethal injection in 1995.

Reed would be the second man executed in the state this month. On June 6, David Mark Hill was put to death for the 1994 killings of three Aiken County social workers he blamed for the breakup of his family.

After his initial appeal was turned down by the S.C. Supreme Court in 1998, Reed wrote a letter to Chief Justice Jean Toal saying that he wanted to waive further appeals and have an execution date set.

In the letter, Reed was “professing his innocence, claiming to waive his right to all appeals, and asking that a date for his execution be set,” according to court documents.

But last year, the justices ruled that Reed could not drop those appeals or continue to represent himself on appeal. While agreeing with a lower court judge's ruling that Reed was competent to waive his appeals, the state Supreme Court disagreed with Circuit Judge Victor Rawl's determination that Reed should be allowed to do so.

“He would rather die with his own personal belief that he is innocent instead of staying on death row where he believes people will presume him guilty,” the court wrote.

Eight other states conduct executions by electrocution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.