A three judge federal appeals court panel today granted a stay of execution to James D. Briley, a convicted multiple murderer who had been scheduled to die Wednesday in Virginia's electric chair.

Had he been electrocuted, Briley, 24, of Richmond, would have become the first prisoner executed in Virginia since March 1962.

The stay granted by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will result in indefinite postponement of the execution while the court considers an appeal filed by his laywers.

A spokesman for the state prison system, Wayne Farrar, said Briley's execution had been set for Wednesday evening, although no precise time had been established.

U. S. District Judge D. Dortch Warriner had denied the requested stay Friday, citing what Warriner called the vicious nature of Briley's crime.

Labeled "depraved" by the Virginia Supreme Court last year, Briley was sentenced to death in January 1980 after a jury convicted him of raping Judy Barton and then shooting her four times in the head. Briley also was convicted of shooting Barton's son, Harvey.

He also was convicted of first degree murder in the shooting of Barton's common-law husband, Harvey Wilkerson and of robbery and fire-arms violations.