Executions to resume after high court's OK

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The longest pause in executions in the U.S. in 25 years is about to end. A splintered Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday, approving the most widely used method of lethal injection.

Almost immediately, Virginia lifted its moratorium on the death penalty. Mississippi and Oklahoma said they would seek execution dates for convicted murderers, and other states were ready to follow.

A nearly seven-month halt in executions was brought on by the court's decision to review Kentucky's lethal injection procedures, which are similar to those in roughly three dozen states. The break is the longest since a 17-month period ending in August 1982.

Voting 7-2, the conservative court led by Chief Justice John Roberts rebuffed the latest assault on capital punishment, this time by foes focusing on methods rather than on the legality of the death penalty itself. Justice John Paul Stevens voted with the majority on the question of lethal injections but said for the first time that he now believes the death penalty is unconstitutional.

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