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High Court Takes Death Penalty Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the case of Thomas Martin Thompson, just hours before he was scheduled to be executed for the 1981 rape and murder of his roommate’s former girlfriend.

On Sunday, the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Thompson’s execution, saying his lawyer’s incompetence raised a “grave question” about whether he is guilty of a capital offense.

The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could have reinstated the order to execute Thompson by injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Instead, six hours before he was scheduled to die, the high court agreed to review his case.

Thompson had already said his goodbyes to family and friends who had been visiting him, said Lt. Joy Mcfarlane, the prison spokeswoman.

The Supreme Court will consider two points: whether the appeals court, in agreeing to reconsider Thompson’s appeal, made an improper end run around a new federal death penalty law that generally limits prisoners to a single federal appeal; and whether the appeals court was allowed to revive the case after the normal time for review had expired.

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