A man condemned for killing his parents avoided the busiest death chamber in the U.S. when he won a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court, which had already agreed to review another state's lethal injection procedures.
Attorneys for Carlton Turner Jr., 28, had appealed to the high court hoping that its planned review of lethal injection procedures in Kentucky, the same process used in Texas, could keep him alive.
His case is being watched as an indicator of whether executions in Texas could be halted until the court rules on the Kentucky case next year.
In a brief order, the court said Thursday it had granted his stay of execution but made no mention of its reasons for stopping the punishment. The order came less than two hours before the death warrant would have expired at midnight CDT.
"All I can say is all glory to God," Turner told prison officials as he was being returned to death row, in another prison about 45 miles (72.4 kilometers) east of Huntsville.
The order followed a decision earlier in the day by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to stay the execution of a contract killer hours before it was to have been carried out, so the inmate could be put to death using a new lethal injection formula the governor had ordered just a day before.
Turner would have been the 27th Texas inmate to be executed this year and the second this week.
After state courts earlier Thursday refused to halt the punishment, Turner's lawyers went to the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday agreed to review an appeal from two condemned inmates in Kentucky who argued that the three-drug process used in lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel. The same procedure is used in Texas.
"The inmate will be forced into a chemical straitjacket, unable to express the fact of his suffocation," the appeal in Turner's case asserted.
Turner's lawyers went early Thursday to his trial court judge with a request to withdraw the execution order. When that failed, they went to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which voted 5-4 to refuse to stop the punishment. The case then went to the Supreme Court.
Turner was 19 when authorities said he shot Carlton Turner Sr., 43, and Tonya Turner, 40, several times in the head. He then bought new clothes and jewelry and continued living in the family's Irving home.
From death row last week, Turner told The Associated Press he did not find the prospect of death frightening but was concerned about possible pain from the lethal injection.
"The only thing I worry about is when the process is starting, the suffocation and pain if the anesthesia doesn't work," he said.