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U.S. Supreme Court Stays Execution of N.C. Man

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RALEIGH — Ernest McCarver, convicted of killing a 71-year-old Concord cafeteria worker in 1987, was set to be executed at 2 a.m. Friday. But now, he will live to see another day.

Death penalty opponents were just about to march to Central Prison in protest of McCarver's execution when the order came down at 7:22 p.m. Thursday. McCarver's attorneys argued a man with an IQ of 67 did not deserve the death penalty.

"Someone came in and shouted there's been a stay, and everyone just shouted, 'Thank God,'" said death penalty opponent Sister Joan Jurski.

Minutes earlier, Governor Mike Easley has denied clemency, stating, "This brutal murder was planned and orchestrated by Mr. McCarver and motivated by his desire for revenge. I do not see evidence sufficiently compelling to stop the fate that a jury of his peers recommended and that the courts have upheld.

"In fact, it would be the nation's highest court to put a hold on McCarver's death," Easley said.

"It's rare for this type of thing to happen and it shows that there are problems with the death penalty," said death penalty opponent Stephen Dear.

"Hopefully, the governor in our state will look at these mental retardation cases and give some serious deep thought on who we are killing," Jurski said.

Although defense attorneys claim McCarver is mentally retarded, the Supreme Court did not give a reason for putting the execution on hold, nor was a date set to hear the case.

In fact, the state attorney general's office released a statement Thursday saying, "We are unsure what issues the court wishes to consider, but we are confident it will resolve this case in due course."