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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 23:52 GMT
Killer escapes landmark execution
Convicted murderer Robin Lovitt
Lovitt was to be executed in a state prison by lethal injection
A US man due to be the 1,000th person to be executed since capital punishment was re-instated in the US in 1976, has been granted clemency.

The death sentence on Robin Lovitt, a convicted murderer, was commuted to life imprisonment without parole a day before he was due to die.

Mr Lovitt was found guilty in 1999 of killing a man with a pair of scissors during a robbery.

Two other men are scheduled to be executed in the US later this week.

Kenneth Boyd is to die on Friday in North Carolina, and Shawn Humphries is scheduled to die on the same day in South Carolina.

'Ultimate sanction'

This is the first time that Virginia's Democratic governor has granted clemency to a death row inmate since taking office nearly four years ago.

Governor Mark Warner, who is seen as a possible presidential candidate, decided to commute Lovitt's sentence from the death penalty to life in prison because of inconclusive evidence.

He said the state had to "ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly".

A spokesman for the governor told the Reuters news agency that he had received roughly 1,500 phone calls, letters and e-mails from across the world about the case, almost all of them urging clemency.

Lovitt was due to die on Wednesday evening for the murder of Clayton Dicks, with a pair of scissors while robbing a pool hall.

His lawyers had argued that his life should be spared because a court clerk prematurely and illegally destroyed the murder weapon, after it yielded inconclusive DNA evidence.

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