An Oklahoma death-row inmate whose supporters include actress Susan Sarandon and football coach Barry Switzer won a two-week reprieve just hours before his scheduled execution on Wednesday.
Richard Glossip had filed a last-minute appeal arguing new evidence pointed to his innocence in the 1997 murder of a hotel owner.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was unswayed, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued an emergency stay of execution that will remain in effect until Sept. 30.
In a brief order, the judges said they wanted time to give "fair consideration" to all the materials Glossip's defense submitted.
Glossip had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 3 p.m. CT. Even Sister Helen Prejean, who met with him Tuesday night, said it would probably take a "miracle" to spare his life.
Nearly a quarter of a million people signed an online petition asking for the execution to be halted after Sarandon, who played Prejean in the movie "Dead Man Walking," came out in support of a reprieve.
Recently, the Innocence Project released a letter urging a stay of execution that was signed by Switzer, the legendary coach of the University of Oklahoma, and Sen. Tom Coburn, who supports capital punishment.
Glossip was convicted of orchestrating the killing of his boss, Barry Van Treese — carried out by maintenance man Justin Sneed, who cut a deal to avoid the death penalty.
His defense lawyers say they have a new witness who swears Sneed admitted acting alone and setting up Glossip's. Previously, Sneed's own daughter claimed her father wanted to recant.
The appeal court set a new execution date of Sept. 30 to review the new claims. In a statement, Fallin said "court is the proper place for Richard Glossip and his legal team to argue the merits of his case. My office will respect whatever decision the court makes, as we have throughout this process.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Van Treese family who has suffered greatly during this long ordeal."
Van Treese's son, Daniel, said he and other relatives, who had come to McAlester from all over the country for the execution, were eating lunch when they got the news.
"We knew it was one of the cards his attorneys were playing," he said. "We aren't looking forward to having to do this again, but we will if we have to."