The execution of Robert James Campbell, scheduled to take place on Tuesday 13 May, has been stayed following an appeal from his lawyers claiming that he is mentally impaired.
Campbell, 41, convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of 20 year old Alejandra Rendon, would have been the first prisoner to face the death penalty since the botched execution of Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett on April 29.
Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the administered lethal injection failed to work due to a collapsed vein and his execution was halted. Witnesses say he appeared to be in pain during the procedure.
Campbell's lawyers filed a final round of appeals on Monday and there was international outrage as anti-death penalty campaigners opposed his sentence. The accused has been diagnosed with "mild mental retardation" which the defence say disqualifies him from receiving the death penalty.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals officially halted the execution two and a half hours before it was due to take place last night, citing that Campbell's lawyers had not had "fair opportunity" to develop this line of argument.
"The Fifth Circuit's decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public," said Campbell's lawyer Robert C Owen in a statement following the decision yesterday.
"Mr Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation."
According to local news reports, upon hearing that his execution was not to go ahead Campbell: said "I'm happy. The Lord prevailed."
He has been taken back to his cell on death row in Livingston where he will continue his sentence while his case returns to the courts.
In response to this latest development, anti-death penalty activist and leading figure of the New Monasticism movement Shane Claiborne wrote on Facebook.
"Prayers go out to Robert and his family … and to the family of Alejandra Rendon - all of whom are suffering as we continue to glorify death through the traumatic practice of the death penalty.
"Let's continue to make death penalty history. From crucifixion, to lynching, to the electric chair, to lethal injection - Every execution is a mistake. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right."
In a recent blog post, Claiborne insisted that all Christians "should be people who are consistently pro-life, pro-grace and anti-death".
"We dare not forget the story – of a God who so loved the world that Jesus was sent, not to condemn the world but to save it," he added.