James Edward Reid, who beat and stabbed to death an 87-year-old southwest Virginia woman in her home in 1996, was executed by injection last night in Virginia's death chamber.

Reid, 58, was pronounced dead at 9:12 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

In his final statement, Reid said: "I forgive you for what you're doing. But I don't forgive you for what you think or what you feel or what you say. I forgive you because God has forgiven me."

In numerous appeals, Reid's attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Virginia's method of lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and therefore is unconstitutional. They contended that the first phase of the state's lethal injection designed to render the body unconscious would wear off -- or not work at all -- and that Reid would "suffer an excruciatingly painful and protracted death" when the second and third chemicals were administered.

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R) issued a statement last night, saying that he found it "tragically ironic" that Reid believes his execution will be "cruel and inhuman."

"Those words should rightly be associated with the horrifying death Mrs. Lester suffered," Kiglore said. ". . .It was a crime of extreme and senseless violence. The sentence has been carried out and justice has been served. My thoughts and prayers are with the victim and her family."

Nearly eight years ago, on Oct. 12, 1996, Reid went to the Christiansburg, Va., home of Annie Lester to do some handyman work. He got drunk, stabbed the emaciated woman 22 times with scissors, stripped off her clothing, and struck her on the head with a milk can.

Reid was convicted in 1997 of capital murder, attempted rape and attempted robbery and was sentenced to death.

Last year, his attorneys' arguments about the legality of the state's lethal injection seemed promising. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond issued a stay Dec. 17, the day before his scheduled execution, pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision that later upheld the legality of lethal injections.

Last week, a U.S. District Court judge in Richmond denied the request to stay the execution, a decision that was upheld Wednesday by a panel on the federal appeals court in a 2 to 1 decision.

James Turk, one of Reid's attorneys, said yesterday that Reid was appointed an ineffective defense team when he was first prosecuted and that his sentence should be commuted because he had been suffering from brain damage and had a serious addiction to alcohol. Reid got drunk before he committed the crime, the attorney said, and "voluntary intoxication negates intent," which would have reduced his capital murder charge.

"I honestly believe he didn't have a clue what he did," Turk said.

James Edward Reid killed Annie Lester, 87, in her home in October 1996.