Robert Pruett, Texas Death Row Inmate, Granted Last-Minute Stay Of Execution

04/28/2015 06:50 pm ET

A Texas man convicted of fatally stabbing a prison guard in 1999 was granted a stay just hours before his scheduled execution Tuesday night.

A state trial judge granted 35-year-old Robert Lynn Pruett’s motion for post-conviction DNA testing, effectively halting his execution, Pruett attorney David Dow confirmed to The Huffington Post.

"I spoke to Robert about an hour ago to tell him the news," Dow said. "He was obviously very relieved."

Pruett also has at least three appeals pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports. Pruett's lawyers maintain his innocence in the stabbing of Texas corrections officer Daniel Nagle 16 years ago.

Dow said his team had filed a motion to test both ends of the murder weapon -- a metal shank that had been filed to a point at one end and wrapped in tape at another -- with the hope that advancements in forensic technology will reveal another person's DNA.

"At the time of the crime, the blood that was identified on the weapon end was identified as just belonging to the victim," Dow said. "We're hoping there will be more than just the victim's DNA. Even more, we're hopeful that the tape end of the shank will have been stored in such a way that the epithelial cells will have DNA that would exclude Robert."

At the time of Nagle's stabbing, Pruett was already serving a 99-year sentence for the 1995 murder of his neighbor. His father and brother are also serving sentences for their role in the earlier crime.

According to court records, Pruett was trying to take a sack lunch into the prison recreation area when Nagle stopped him and wrote the inmate a disciplinary charge. Later that afternoon, Nagle was found in his office stabbed eight times with a metal shank. The torn-up disciplinary note was also there.

"The evidence against me in this case was inmate testimony," Pruett said in a 2014 BBC documentary, "Life On Death Row: Crisis Stage." "Everybody, these inmates -- there was like five of them -- and each one had a different story. There was absolutely no physical evidence linking me to this crime at all."

Among the arguments, Reuters reports, that Pruett's lawyers have made in his defense: His blood and fingerprints were never found on the murder weapon, Nagle's blood was not found on Pruett, Pruett received an inadequate defense at trial, and evidence in his case was mishandled.

Tuesday's stay marks the third time that Pruett's execution has been delayed.

Several of Pruett's supporters took to Twitter to share the news of his stay so quickly that even a public information official at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was not yet aware of the stay:

Pruett's execution would have been the seventh in Texas so far this year. The state has been running low on the necessary drugs for lethal injections. A Department of Criminal Justice spokesman has said officials have enough drug supply for two more executions.

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The Long Wait For Death Row Inmates
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