Julius Jones’ death sentence was overturned by the governor of Oklahoma just hours before his execution.
Jones, who was convicted of killing Paul Howell, a businessman in the wealthy Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, in 1999, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 4pm Thursday at the State Prison in McAlester.
The 41-year-old has always maintained his innocence.
His lawyers filed a last-minute emergency petition Thursday to stop the execution.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt gave leniency to Jones and commuted his sentence just hours before he was scheduled to be killed.
Doubts about evidence in Jones’ case increasingly attracted attention, rising as high as Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board, which twice voted 3-1 to recommend Mr. Stitt commute his sentence.
The emergency petition filed Thursday said Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedures present “a serious and high risk of severe suffering and pain to inmates.”
It cited last month’s execution in which John Marion Grant convulsed and vomited while he was killed.
The petition said: “This motion is presented now certainly on the day of Julius Jones’ execution.
“However, it is timely in circumstances where the governor has not acted on the lenient recommendation, which, if accepted, would have avoided the need for this move presented by seeking relief today as it relates to Julius Jones.”
Jones ’threatening execution prompted high school students across Oklahoma City to drop out of their classes on Wednesday.
Protests were also planned in Los Angeles; Washington; Newark, New Jersey, and Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Prayer vigils were held at the Oklahoma State Capitol, and barricades were set up outside the governor’s mansion.
Even Baker Mayfield, a NFL Cleveland Browns quarterback and University of Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner, weighed in, his eyes filled with tears.
Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence.
Oklahoma ended a six-year moratorium on executions – caused by concerns about its deadly injection methods – last month.
John Marion Grant, 60, convulsed and vomited when he was killed 28 October.
Grant was the first person in Oklahoma to be executed since a series of flawed lethal injections in 2014 and 2015.