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Judge grants stay of execution to condemned Mo. man

ST. LOUIS - A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for John Middleton, hours before he is scheduled to be put to death in Missouri.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled Tuesday that there was enough question about whether Middleton is insane that a hearing should be held to determine if he should be executed. The U.S. Constitution prohibits executing the mentally ill.

The Missouri Attorney General's office immediately appealed the ruling.

Middleton was a northern Missouri methamphetamine dealer convicted of the 1995 murders of Randy "Happy" Hamilton and Stacey Hodge, then Alfred Pinegar a week-and-a-half later, out of fear they would snitch to police. He was sentenced to death for killing Pinegar.

He would be the sixth Missouri inmate executed this year.

In a separate ruling late Monday, a court of appeals refused to halt the execution on Middleton's claim that he is innocent.