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Death Row Inmate Spared At Final Hour

Texas prison officials halted Tuesday night's scheduled execution of a former topless-club bouncer condemned for a double slaying almost 20 years ago as the clock ticked down on their deadline.

After winning a reprieve earlier in the day, Charles Dean Hood spent much of the evening in a cell not far from the death chamber as a flurry of appeals played out in the courts.

Shortly after 11 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court rejected three appeals and Hood appeared headed to the death chamber. But prison officials faced with a midnight deadline to administer lethal drugs feared they could not follow the proper procedures before the execution warrant expired. Gov. Rick Perry then issued a 30-day reprieve.

Hood initially won a reprieve just over an hour before he could have been put to death when State District Judge Curt Henderson lifted the death warrant. Hood cried tears of relief at the news.

According to , the wrinkle in the Hood case came two weeks ago when Matthew Goeller, an assistant district attorney during the time in question, filed an affidavit stating under oath that it was "common knowledge" that Hood's prosecutor, Tom O'Connell, was engaged in a sexual relationship with Hood's judge, Verla Sue Holland, during Hood's capital trial. It is a fluke, apparently, that Hood's lawyers got this information when they did. But the law accounts for such flukes, and allows them to become appellate issues.

Henderson's order set off a volley of appeals by prosecutors. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rescinded the order, saying Henderson didn't have the authority to withdraw the warrant that appeared to stop the punishment.

Hood, 38, was convicted of murder for the 1989 slayings of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace at Williamson's home in the Dallas suburb of Plano.

When arrested in Indiana, Hood was driving Williamson's $70,000 Cadillac but insisted he had Williamson's permission. Hood says he's innocent. Tuesday's was his fifth execution date.

Normally, inmates are returned to death row in Livingston once their execution is called off. But state officials kept Hood in Huntsville as the appeals played out.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma executed its first death row inmate since August.

Terry Lyn Short, who was convicted of killing 22-year-old Japanese exchange student Ken Yamamoto in 1995, was put to death by lethal injection Tuesday evening.

Short was pronounced dead at 6:08 p.m., said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie.

Yamamoto, a student at Oklahoma City University, lived one floor above Short's ex-girlfriend and died after Short threw a gasoline-filled bottle into her apartment that ignited the building.

Short acknowledged during a clemency hearing last month that he threw the firebomb, but claimed he did not intend to kill Yamamoto, whom he did not know.

A de facto moratorium on executions was lifted when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection procedures in April.