The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday halted the execution of a black man convicted of a double murder 16 years ago after his lawyers contended his sentence was unfair because of a question asked about race during his trial.
Duane Buck, 48, was spared from lethal injection when the justices, without comment, said they would review an appeal in his case.
Two appeals, both related to a psychologist's testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence, were before the court. One was granted. The other denied.
"Praise the Lord!" Buck told Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. "God is worthy to be praised. God's mercy triumphs over judgment. "I feel good."
His lawyers called to tell Buck of the reprieve and the inmate was praying in his cell when Clark approached, Clark said.
Buck was convicted of gunning down ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner, 32, and Kenneth Butler, 33, outside Houston on July, 30, 1995, a week after Buck and Gardner broke up. Buck's guilt is not being questioned, but his lawyers say the jury was unfairly influenced and that he should receive a new sentencing hearing.
The reprieve came nearly two hours into a six-hour window when Buck could have been taken to the death chamber. Texas officials, however, refused to move forward with the punishment while legal issues were pending.
A similar request for a reprieve was made to Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry is the Republican frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, and his actions have now come under closer scrutiny. Perry, however, wasn't in the state Thursday, and any decision on a reprieve from the governor's office would have fallen to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.