ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday issued a stay temporarily blocking the execution of convicted killer Jack Alderman, who was scheduled to die on Friday.
The Georgia justices cited the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to hear a challenge to lethal injection from a pair of inmates in Kentucky who argue that it violates their constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Georgia and 37 other states use lethal injection.
The U.S. Supreme Court stepped in late Wednesday and put the brakes on an execution in Virginia that was set to take place that night. The Georgia justices noted that in their order staying Alderman's execution.
The order is likely to mean that Alderman will be spared until after the nation's top court rules in that case, which could happen in the spring. The order is set to stay in place "until further order" of the Georgia court.
Alderman's lawyers had pushed to delay his execution until U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Kentucky case. They said there is evidence that those who are administered the lethal three-drug cocktail are in intense pain before they die.
"We're very happy with the Georgia Supreme Court's decision," Alderman's lawyer Michael Siem said. "I think it shows that the courts are taking the direction from the U.S. Supreme Court, which we are pleased to see."
On Wednesday, Siem lost a bid before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole to win a 90-day stay of execution. And earlier this week, the Georgia Supreme Court had turned down an earlier application for a stay.
It was not immediately clear whether the decision would also put a halt to another execution set to take place in Georgia on Tuesday. Curtis Osborne is facing execution for the 1990 murders of two people in Spalding County.
Russ Willard, a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said the office's lawyers were reviewing the court's decision on Thursday and had no comment.
Alderman is sentenced to die in the 1974 slaying of his 20-year-old wife, Barbara, in Chatham County. Alderman and an accomplice allegedly killed Barbara Alderman to collect $20,000 in life insurance money.
Prison officials had been moving forward with plans for Alderman's execution this week and he had even selected his last meal of fried chicken breast, fried shrimp and ice cream.