UPDATE - Kate Black, Duane Buck's attorney, has issued the following statement:
"We are relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the obvious injustice of allowing a defendant's race to factor into sentencing decisions and granted a stay of execution to Duane Buck. No one should be put to death based on the color of his or her skin. We are confident that the Court will agree that our client is entitled to a fair sentencing hearing that is untainted by considerations of his race."
"High court halts Duane Buck's Texas execution," is the AP report via CBS News.
The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday halted the execution of a black man convicted of a double murder in Texas 16 years ago after his lawyers contended his sentence was unfair because of a question asked about race during his trial.
Duane Buck, 48, was spared from lethal injection when the justices, without comment, said they would review an appeal in his case.
Two appeals, both related to a psychologist's testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence, were before the court. One was granted. The other denied.
"Praise the Lord!" Buck told Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. "God is worthy to be praised. God's mercy triumphs over judgment. I feel good."
His lawyers called to tell Buck of the reprieve and the inmate was praying in his cell when Clark approached, Clark said.
The reprieve came nearly two hours into a six-hour window when Buck could have been taken to the death chamber. Texas officials, however, refused to move forward with the punishment while legal issues were pending.
A similar request for a reprieve was made to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry is the Republican frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination and his actions have now come under closer scrutiny. Perry, however, wasn't in the state Thursday and any decision on a reprieve from the governor's office would have fallen to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
CBS Radio News senior legal analyst Andrew Cohen reports that the Supreme Court's move is a surprise because they rarely intervene in death penalty cases where the guilt of the defendant is not in doubt. The Justices were most likely concerned about the promises Texas had earlier made to defendants like Buck whose capital trials were tainted by racial testimony.
The Supreme Court has only called for a stay in the execution. It has not yet given Buck a new sentencing trial, which is what his attorneys had sought after his first trial was tainted by unconstitutional testimony about his race. Even Texas had initially agreed his trial was unfair.