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A stay of execution is a court order to temporarily suspend the execution of a court judgment or other court order. The word "execution" does not necessarily mean the death penalty; it refers to the imposition of whatever judgment is being stayed.
A stay can be granted automatically by operation of law or conventionally, when the parties in a civil or criminal case agree that no execution shall occur for a certain period. If a party appeals a decision, any judgment issued by the original court may be stayed until the appeal is resolved.
In cases where the death penalty has been imposed, a stay of execution is often sought to defer the execution of the convicted person. This may occur if new evidence is discovered that will exonerate the convicted person or in attempts to have the sentence commuted to life imprisonment. In the United States, all death sentences are automatically stayed pending a direct review by an appeals court. If the death sentence is found to have been legally sound, the stay is lifted.
One example of a stay of execution in the death penalty context was the James Autry case. Autry was already strapped down to the execution table in Texas when the order came to stop the execution. He was executed a few months later, on March 14, 1984.
U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey granted a stay of execution on November 19, 2013 in response to a motion by Franklin's lawyers that use of the drug phenobarbital in a lethal injection would constitute cruel and unusual. The following day, US Supreme Court upheld an appeal court's decision to lift the stay of execution. Franklin was put to death on November 20, 2013.
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