Court grants reprieve to Alabama death-row inmate

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Oct 25 (Reuters) A US court granted a stay of execution to a convicted killer set to be put to death in Alabama today, the latest such move since the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to lethal injection.

The US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday overturned a decision by a lower court to proceed with the execution of Daniel Lee Siebert, 53.

''We stay his execution pending the Supreme Court's resolution of Baze vs Rees,'' the court said, referring to the high court's decision last month to review whether lethal injections cause unacceptable pain.

Siebert's lawyers had argued that the drug combination used for lethal injection might interact with his medication for pancreatic cancer and hepatitis C and cause undue pain.

Siebert was convicted of the 1986 strangling deaths of Sherri Weathers, her two young sons and Weathers' friend Linda Jarman.

He was also convicted of murdering Linda Odum. Siebert claims to have murdered others in various US states.

''He's beaten the system again,'' Louella Kelley, Jarman's sister, said in an interview. ''He got himself educated in law while he's been in prison and his lawyers are very, very good.

But all along he's been smarter than our justice system.'' On Monday Alabama Gov Bob Riley said the execution would go ahead. It would have been the first since the beginning of a ''creeping moratorium'' that has halted executions in at least six US states.

A ruling by the Supreme Court is expected by the middle of next year on a challenge by two Kentucky death-row inmates to the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections.

The only execution that has occurred despite the Supreme Court case was in Texas on September 25 -- just hours after the court announced it would take up the matter.

So far this year, 42 people have been executed in the United States, according to the nongovernmental Death Penalty Information Center. Last year, there were 53 executions.

All but one of the 38 US states that carry out the death penalty use lethal injection for executions, as does the federal government.

Lethal injection came under legal scrutiny after botched injections in Florida and California in which it took inmates up to 30 minutes to die.

Reuters AK VP0555

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