MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A federal appeals court has lifted a stay of execution for James Harvey Callahan, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday, but it could be delayed again by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in a Kentucky challenge to lethal injection, a case that has delayed executions nationwide. Alabama uses lethal injection in its executions.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday lifted the stay granted by U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins in Montgomery on Dec. 14.
Callahan, who is now scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Thursday at Holman prison near Atmore, was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jacksonville State University student Rebecca Suzanne Howell on Feb. 4, 1982.
Authorities said she was abducted from a coin laundry in Jacksonville and raped before being strangled and dumped in Tallasseehatchee Creek.
In his Dec. 14 order, Watkins wrote that the public interest would not be served by an unconstitutional execution, and Callahan's constitutional challenge should be resolved first. The judge said it would be "a waste of judicial resources" to hold a trial on Callahan's suit before the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the Kentucky case.
The state attorney general's office had opposed a stay, and the 11th Circuit lifted it, sending the issue to the Supreme Court.
On Dec. 5, the Supreme Court stopped the execution of another Alabama death row inmate, Tommy Arthur, one day before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection at Holman prison. That stay also stemmed from the pending Kentucky case.