Julius Jones’ death sentence has been commuted by Oklahoma’s governor just hours before his execution.
Jones, who was convicted of killing Paul Howell, a businessman in the affluent Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, in 1999, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 4pm on Thursday at the State Penitentiary in McAlester.
The 41-year-old has always maintained his innocence.
His lawyers filed a last-minute emergency request on Thursday to halt the execution.
Republican Governor Kevin Stitt granted clemency to Jones and commuted his sentence just hours before he was scheduled to be put to death.
Doubts about evidence in Jones’ case have increasingly drawn attention, rising as high as Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board, which has twice voted 3-1 to recommend Mr Stitt commute his sentence.
The emergency request filed on Thursday said Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedures post a “serious and substantial risk of severe suffering and pain to prisoners”.
It cited last month’s execution in which John Marion Grant convulsed and vomited as he was being put to death.
The request said: “This motion is being filed now admittedly on the day of Julius Jones’s execution.
“Nonetheless, it is timely under circumstances where the governor has not acted on the clemency recommendation that, if accepted, would have obviated the need for this motion being filed seeking emergency relief today as it relates to Julius Jones.”
Jones’ looming execution prompted high school students across Oklahoma City to walk 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 erected outside the governor’s mansion.
Even Baker Mayfield, quarterback for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and a Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Oklahoma, weighed in, his eyes filling 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 – brought on by concerns over its lethal injection methods – last month.
John Marion Grant, 60, convulsed and vomited as he was being put to death 28 October.
Grant was the first person in Oklahoma to be executed since a series of flawed lethal injections in 2014 and 2015.