STARKE, Fla. (AP) - Amos King, who escaped two other dates with death this year, escaped a third time Monday when Gov. Jeb Bush granted a 30-day stay so DNA tests can be run.
King was due to be executed at 6 p.m. by lethal injection when he won the stay after lawyer Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project met with the governor's death penalty attorney earlier Monday.
King, 48, was condemned for raping and murdering Natalie Brady, 68, in her Tarpon Springs home in 1977 and setting the place ablaze after slipping away from a work-release prison. He was caught, in bloody clothing, trying to slip back in.
Bush issued the stay due to new DNA techniques that were not available at the time of King's conviction in 1977.
In a statement, Bush said Scheck "informed my legal office of the existence of previously untested evidence and further DNA testing that could possibly exonerate Amos King.
"It is wholly appropriate that we delay the execution until we can determine that all potentially useful DNA testing has been completed," Bush said.
Scheck said he was "gratified and very pleased" - but not surprised after his meeting with Wendy Berger, the governor's death penalty lawyer.
"I had confidence that Gov. Bush would do this," Scheck said, adding that the test results are "just the kind of thing you don't want to leave any chance to."
King's lawyers called The Innocence Project for help about 10 days ago They want to test three pubic hairs and scrapings from under Brady's fingernails.
The execution was rescheduled for Jan 8.
King had spent his final day with his religious adviser, Casey Walpole, a Gainesville Buddhist. His third final meal included shrimp, scallops, fried fish and oysters, a chicken breast, an avocado salad with tomatoes, butter pecan ice cream and pecan pie.
King's jury had voted unanimously to recommend that he receive the death penalty.
An autopsy determined that his victim had two stab wounds, bruises on the back of her head, bleeding of the brain and neck, a broken cartilage in her neck and a tear in her vagina.
King had received stays of execution in February and July from the U.S. and Florida supreme courts. They had debated whether Florida's death penalty law is similar to Arizona's, which was declared unconstitutional by the nation's high court.
Two other Florida inmates were executed this year. Rigoberto Sanchez-Velasco, 43, died Oct. 2 after dropping appeals from his conviction in the December 1986 rape-slaying of 11-year-old Katixa "Kathy" Ecenarro in Hialeah. Sanchez-Velasco also killed two fellow inmates while on death row.
Aileen Wuornos died Oct. 9, after dropping her appeals for the murder of six men along central Florida highways.
Fifty-three other inmates have been executed in Florida since it reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Another inmate, Linroy Bottoson, 63, is scheduled to die Friday. Bottoson was convicted of killing Catherine Alexander, the Eatonville postmistress, in 1979. He robbed the 74-year-old woman, held her captive for 83 hours, stabbed her 16 times and finally killed her by running her over with a car.
Bottoson's jury was split 10-2 in favor of death.