The US Supreme Court on Thursday put a last-minute temporary block on the execution of man found guilty of murdering of three police officers in Alabama in 2004.
Nathaniel Woods, 44, was accused of being the “mastermind” behind the deaths of police officers allegedly lured into an ambush when they tried to arrest him over drug charges.
Lawyers had lobbied the court over the method of execution, which would be by lethal injection.
“It is ordered that execution of the sentence of death is hereby stayed,” the Supreme Court said in a statement, just hours before Woods was due to die.
Woods did not pull the trigger that killed the officers but he was given the same sentence as the gunman, Kerry Spencer.
Spencer described Woods as “100 percent” innocent in a recent letter to US media, saying that “I know this to be a fact because I’m the person that shot and killed all three of the officers.”
Woods, who has always protested his innocence, was convicted by 10 of the 12 jurors in 2005.
Alabama is the only US state that does not require an unanimous verdict to impose the death penalty.
Celebrity Kim Kardashian, a regular campaigner against the death penalty, was among about 120,000 people who have urged Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to grant Woods a reprieve.
“Are you willing to allow a potentially innocent man to be executed?” Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights leader, asked in a letter to the governor posted on Twitter.
Woods would have been the fifth person to die by execution in 2020 in the United States.