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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 05:14 GMT
US killer gets stay of execution
A protester in the Austrian city of Graz demonstrating at Schwarzenegger's death penalty decision
Schwarzenegger's decision sparked protests from California to Austria
A condemned murderer whose plea for clemency was turned down by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has won an 11th-hour stay of execution.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request for the case of Kevin Cooper - convicted in 1983 of hacking four people to death - to be reheard.

California's Supreme Court upheld the ruling late on Monday.

It would have been the first execution in California in two years - the first case Mr Schwarzenegger has dealt with.

Cooper was sentenced to death for the murders of Douglas and Peggy Ryen, both 41, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and her friend Christopher Hughes, 11.

The 46-year-old has always protested his innocence.

He had been due to be executed at 0001 (0801GMT) on Tuesday.

An 11-judge panel will now review the case, after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute request by state lawyers to overturn the Court of Appeals' stay of execution.

'New evidence'

Over the years Cooper's case has been taken up by notable political figures and celebrities, including actors Denzel Washington and Sean Penn.

His lawyers and supporters accuse the police of planting DNA evidence, and say other evidence that may prove Cooper's innocence has been ignored.

Kevin Cooper
Kevin Cooper protests his innocence
On Saturday, at least three of Cooper's jurors called for a stay of execution until those questions have been answered.

About 100 death penalty opponents gathered outside Governor Schwarzenegger's home on Sunday to protest at his decision to let the execution go ahead.

Protesters also gathered in Austria, Mr Schwarzenegger's homeland, which has made the death penalty illegal.

The mayor of the Austria's city of Graz, where Mr Schwarzenegger launched his bodybuilding career, even sent a letter asking him to reconsider his decision.




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