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The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday night stayed the execution of an Alabama man convicted of the 1982 shooting death of a woman's husband in a murder-for-hire arrangement.

Five justices voted to stay the execution of Tommy Arthur as the high court considers whether to take up his challenge to Alabama's death penalty procedure. Arthur, 74, was scheduled to be executed Thursday by lethal injection at a south Alabama prison.

"We are greatly relieved by the Supreme Court's decision granting a stay and now hope for the opportunity to present the merits of Mr. Arthur's claims to the Court," Arthur's attorney Suhana Han said in a statement.

This is the seventh time that Arthur, who has waged a lengthy legal battle over his conviction and the constitutionality of the death penalty, has received a reprieve from an execution date, a track record that has frustrated the state attorney general's office and victims' advocacy groups.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote Thursday that he did not think the case merited a stay, but voted to grant it as a courtesy to the four justices who wanted to "more fully consider the suitability of this case for review." The execution stay will expire if the court does not take up Arthur's case.

The attorney general's office had unsuccessfully urged the court to let the execution go forward and expressed disappointment at the decision.


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