James Earl Reed

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James Earl Reed (26 November 1958 – 20 June 2008) was a convicted murderer put to death in the state of South Carolina by electrocution in Old Sparky, the name of the state's electric chair. As of 2013 Reed's execution was the last use of the electric chair outside the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Reed and 28-year-old Laurie Rego dated briefly while they were both in the United States Army. Sometime after Rego tried to end the relationship Reed pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 37 months in prison. While incarcerated, he wrote numerous threatening letters to Rego.

In May 1994 Reed was released from prison. Shortly afterwards he bought a gun and hitchhiked to the home of Rego's parents, Joseph and Barbara Ann Lafayette, who lived in Adams Run, South Carolina, looking for her. Reed shot the couple five times before fleeing the scene. Although no physical evidence linked Reed to the murder scene, he was arrested and questioned by police. He then cooperated with police in an attempt to locate the murder weapon and spent casings, however they were never recovered.


Reed, who was said to have an IQ of 77 and have a "neurological impairment", represented himself and waived his right to testify during the final part of his trial at Charleston County Circuit Court. But prior to the jury being sent out to consider its verdict, Reed sought to alter his relationship with his standby counsel. He wanted to give a closing statement before his attorney would continue. Reed claimed it was because he was too emotional to cross-examine the victims' family. Over the objections of Reed’s standby counsel, District Court Judge William L. Howard refused to reappoint counsel because Reed had already waived his right to counsel at the opening of the trial making far too late in the proceeding for his attorney to adequately prepare.

The jury took only 30 minutes to find Reed guilty of first degree murder recommending that he should receive the death penalty. Judge Howard concurred sentencing Reed to death for the double killings.

In 2003 Reed ended his right to appeal in at least four different courts. He chose to die by electrocution instead of lethal injection, did not ask for clemency, eat a last meal, or make a final statement.


Reed's execution was set for 6pm on Friday June 20, 2008, but a series of appeals stopped the execution from occurring until 11:20pm, when the curtains were opened so that witnesses could view the execution. Reed was strapped into the chair, with a strap or mask that covered most of his head. Electrodes were connected to his head through a wire that could be seen connecting from the ceiling to a cap on his head and another wire was connected to the calf of his right leg. Reed was not seen to look at anyone and he declined to state any last words. He had earlier also declined to opt for a last meal or any spiritual advisor. After his declination to last words was announced, a leather hood was tied around his head. When the switch was thrown, witnesses heard a noise similar to the sound made by the key ring clip lock on a gas station pump handle when the tank is "full". The sound indicated that the circuit of the electric chair had been completed and current was now passing into Reed's body. Reed jerked forward, but other than that there was no significant movement. The electrodes were disconnected at 11:25pm and he was pronounced dead at 11:27pm.

Witness to the execution included Marsha Lafayette Aleem, the youngest daughter of the married couple Reed was convicted of murdering. She was seated in the first of three rows and directly in front of Reed as he sat in the electric chair. She was accompanied by two of her uncles. In the row behind them were a victims' advocate and an investigator. Seated in the third and final row were the three media witnesses invited to the execution. No one from Reed's family chose to attend his execution.

See also[edit]


Reed v. Ozmint (2007) 647 S.E.2d 209; State v. Reed (1998) 503 S.E.2d 747)

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