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Inmate dodges execution for seventh time

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An inmate set to die by lethal injection in the southern US state of Alabama was granted an 11th-hour reprieve late Thursday, his latest stay of execution.

The late-night order by the Supreme Court in Washington was the seventh time that Thomas Arthur, 74, has seen his scheduled execution called off.

Arthur had been scheduled to die at 6pm at the prison in Altmore, following decades-long imprisonment for his conviction in the 1982 murder of his mistress’s husband.

But officials delayed the timing of the execution as they waited for the court’s decision.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued an order about 10:30pm Thursday temporarily halting the execution until he or other justices made another decision, a court document said.

Just before midnight, the Supreme Court granted Arthur’s request to stay the execution, the Washington Post reported. It would remain in place until the full court decides whether it will consider the case.

“We are greatly relieved by the Supreme Court’s decision granting a stay and now hope for the opportunity to present the merits of Mr. Arthur’s claims to the Court,” Suhana Han, Arthur’s lead counsel, told AFP.

If the Supreme Court decides not to take on the case, the stay would be terminated, the Washington Post said.

Lawyers for Arthur had argued that a drug in Alabama’s lethal injection cocktail, the sedative midazolam, would have “torturous effects,” after having been used in three botched executions elsewhere, the newspaper said.

The lawyers had also filed an appeal based on Arthur’s being sentenced to death by a judge following a non-unanimous jury recommendation.

In January, the US Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s death sentencing process, which was similar to Alabama’s, was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to the detriment of juries.

The pace of executions is declining in the United States, due to a combination of factors including a shortage of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.

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