The supreme court in the southern U.S. state of Georgia has temporarily granted a stay of execution for a convicted murderer, saying it needs to examine the method of execution.
The court ruled Monday, just two hours before the state was to put Warren Hill to death, that it needed to investigate whether the new single-drug injection method was legal under Georgia law.
The 52-year-old Hill is to be the first inmate in Georgia executed using a single drug, rather than a three-drug mix the state has previously used. He was originally set to die last week, but the state delayed the execution because of the change in execution procedure.
The state supreme court also declined to review a separate defense appeal that claimed Hill is mentally disabled and should not be executed, despite pleas from rights groups and a U.N. official.
Already in prison for life in connection with another murder, Hill was convicted of the 1990 murder of a fellow inmate.
The judge in the 1990 case said Hill was more likely than not to be mentally retarded, but said Hill's attorney failed to prove that. Federal courts upheld Georgia state law that requires defendants to prove claims of mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it is unconstitutional to execute people who are mentally retarded, saying those defendants "face a special risk of wrongful execution." The decision left it up to individual states to decide what level of proof defendants must show of their mental capacity.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.