High court blocks Henry Skinner execution

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday stopped the execution of condemned prisoner Hank Skinner about an hour before he could have been taken to the Texas death chamber.

Skinner asked the court and Gov. Rick Perry for the delay for DNA testing that he insisted could clear him in a triple slaying.

The brief order grants him the delay but does not ensure he will get such testing. Perry had not decided on the delay.

Skinner, 47, faced lethal injection for the bludgeoning and strangling of his girlfriend, 40-year-old Twila Jean Busby, and the stabbings of her two adult sons. The slayings occurred at their home in the Texas Panhandle town of Pampa on New Year's Eve in 1993.

The court order came as relatives of Busby were climbing the steps of the Huntsville prison to prepare to witness his punishment.

In the order, the justices said they would put off the execution until they decide whether to review his case. If the court refuses the review, the reprieve is lifted, according to the order, and Skinner would become eligible for another execution date.

Skinner, in a small holding cell a few feet from the death chamber, was informed of the reprieve in a phone call from his lawyer.

"I had made up my mind I was going to die," he said. "I'm eager to get the DNA testing so I can prove my innocence and get the hell out of here.

"I'm greatly relieved. I feel like I really won today."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)