Richard Glossip execution paused for 37 days

The governor of the US state of Oklahoma issued a last-minute stay of execution for an inmate convicted of ordering a murder, amid questions over one of the lethal injection drugs.

Richard Glossip -- whose case had sparked appeals for clemency from Pope Francis, celebrities and others -- had been set to die in the afternoon, following a two-week reprieve to allow time to consider new evidence in his murder conviction.

But Republican Governor Mary Fallin issued a surprise 37-day stay, saying the state needed time to address questions about the use of potassium acetate in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail and ensure it complies with court-approved protocols.

"Last minute questions were raised today about Oklahoma's execution protocol and the chemicals used for lethal injection," Fallin said in a statement.

Her executive order said the stay was granted to allow time to check on the viability of the substitute drug, "and/or obtain potassium chloride" -- the drug called for in the protocol.

Oklahoma found itself in the midst of a firestorm last year over a botched execution that sparked a national and international outcry.

Glossip had challenged the legality of a different drug used in the state's lethal injection protocol before the Supreme Court -- one called into question in connection with last year's painful execution -- but lost that case.

He also had failed to secure a last-minute stay from the high court on Wednesday. It rejected an appeal from Glossip's lawyers without explanation.

Fallin's executive order came about an hour later.

The execution is now set for November 6.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said it was "mind-boggling" that it took authorities until the last minute to realize they had the wrong drug in the high-profile case -- especially since they had months to prepare for the execution.

"I've been involved in death penalty issues for almost a quarter-century, and I've never seen anything like this," Dunham told AFP.

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