The U.S. Supreme Court called off the execution of Hubert Lester Michael Jr. in Pennsylvania more than an hour after he had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection last night for the murder of a teenage girl, the Associated Press reports. The high court agreed with a federal appeals court ruling earlier in the day that prevented him from becoming the first person put to death in the state since 1999.
"If and when the stay is lifted by the court, the execution will be scheduled directly," said state corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton. Michael pleaded guilty to fatally shooting Trista Elizabeth Eng in 1993. Pennsylvania has put to death only three inmates in the past 50 years, and all of them, unlike Michael , had given up on their appeals. Michael lawyer Helen Marino said the courts saw there were "compelling claims relating to Mr. Michael's debilitating mental conditions that have never been reviewed by any court." The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to a district court judge to address whether Michael's appeal should be considered a successive petition that is subject to stricter rules, whether "extraordinary circumstances" existed and whether a district court proceeding is needed to consider the merits of Michael's claims.