RALEIGH (AP) — The scheduled execution of convicted cop killer Timothy Lanier Allen this morning was cancelled after a federal appeals court ruled the state had to allow him more time to challenge his conviction.
Allen had just received his last meal - a Whopper, French fries and a strawberry shake - when word came Thursday evening that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld a federal judge's order stopping his execution.
Although the stay had been in effect since Wednesday morning, state officials were preparing to execute Allen, 42, for the 1985 murder of state Highway Patrol trooper Raymond Worley. State attorneys had been confident they could persuade the 4th Circuit to overturn the stay.
``The execution will not go on as scheduled'' at 2 a.m. today, said Chief Deputy Attorney General Andrew Vanore.
Preparations for the execution by lethal injection were proceeding when the call came from the appeals court clerk's office about 5:15 p.m. Allen had gotten his modest last meal in the death watch area across the hall from the death chamber. His family had visited earlier in the day. An official was setting up a podium at the prison's visitor center for a news conference after the execution, if it came.
Now, Allen will be moved back to the death row area, where 175 inmates await execution. It will be months, at least, before he is summoned by the warden to return to the death watch cells, where three guards watch him constantly, because his attorneys plan a new round of appeals.
Vanore said attorneys didn't have time to appeal the 4th Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
``We had decided to go to the 4th Circuit and if we didn't get any relief there, we'll just try to get the issue decided as soon as possible,'' Vanore said. ``At some point in time, we're very confident that Mr. Allen will have justice done, but it's not going to be tomorrow.''
Worley's widow, Jacqueline, didn't answer the telephone at her Conway home, but had said earlier she was getting angry with delays.
There was no immediate word from prison officials on Allen's reaction to the news, but family members outside the prison said they were happy and that Allen wasn't guilty.
The stay had been appealed on grounds that U.S. District Court Malcolm Howard in Raleigh didn't have authority to stop the execution under a new federal law designed to speed appeals in death cases.
Howard said the state had miscalculated the time Allen had to file a federal appeal of his state conviction. He said the new law gives Allen until Feb. 10, 1998, to seek the review.
The state argued Allen's one year should be counted from Aug. 23, 1996, when his appeal was denied in a state Superior Court instead of from Feb. 11, when his appeal was denied by the state Supreme Court.
Allen hasn't sought a federal review of his conviction and death sentence, but the two state Supreme Court decisions in his case have been reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
By ESTES THOMPSON,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.