The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of Duane Buck, a black man convicted of double murder in Texas 16 years ago, after his lawyers argued that racial considerations factored in the sentencing phase of his trial.
Although the Supreme Court did not specify the span of the stay, Buck's attorney Kate Black asked Gov. Rick Perry for 30 days.
Buck, 48, was spared from lethal injection on Thursday hours before he was scheduled to be put to death after the nation's highest court said it would review an appeal in his case.
Buck's execution had been scheduled to take place on Thursday after 6 p.m. CDT (2300 GMT) at the prison in Huntsville, Texas.
The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Scalia and by him referred to the Court is granted pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court, the Court document said.
Buck was convicted of shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her companion Kenneth Butler outside Houston in 1995. At the time of sentencing, a psychologist who was called to testify said that blacks were more likely to be repeat offenders.
An early-morning quarrel between Buck and Gardner led to Buck returning to Gardner's home several hours later with two rifles. He forced his way into the home at 7327 Peurta Vallarta and began shooting indiscriminately, according to records at Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice.
The documents added that the first person Buck saw inside the home was his own sister, whom he shot in the chest. He then shot and killed Butler and chased Gardner out the back door and into the middle of the street as her young daughter begged not to shoot her mother. Buck shot Gardner and left her bleeding in the street. Buck was taken into custody at the scene, while his sister survived her wound.
Although Buck's guilt has not been questioned, his lawyers argue the jury was unfairly influenced by the psychologist's racially based testimony, causing them to recommend a sentence of capital punishment instead of life in prison.
The state of Texas has executed 235 inmates since Perry, a Republican presidential candidate and staunch supporter of death penalty, became governor in 2000. On Tuesday, Steven Woods was put to death for his supposed involvement in the slayings of two people in Texas in 2002. Two more Texas prisoners are scheduled to die next week.