(UNDATED) - A federal appeals court judge Tuesday granted a stay of execution for an Indiana man convicted of the torturous rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl.
40-year-old Roy Lee Ward was convicted in 2001 of the mutilation killing of Stacy Payne in Spencer County, and the Indiana Supreme Court in June affirmed his sentence.
Ward had been scheduled to be executed today barring a stay from a federal court.
Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana stayed Ward's execution for 90 days and appointed attorneys Marie F. Donnelly and Laurence E. Komp to file a writ of habeas corpus no later than March 4.
According to a legal brief supporting Ward's request, indigent prisoners have the right to a stay of execution so that their lawyers can have time to research and file a habeas corpus petition -- the right to have a conviction reviewed by a federal judge.
Ward was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to death for the raping and murdering Payne, a 15-year-old Heritage Hills High School student, on July 11, 2001, in her Spencer County home. An arriving town marshal from Dale, Ind., found Ward standing in the doorway of the house holding a knife. Payne was found alive on the kitchen floor and rushed to Deaconess-St. Joseph Hospital, where she died.
According to a probable cause affidavit, 15-year old Stacy Payne and her 14-year old sister, Melissa, were home alone in their rural Dale home when Ward entered and attacked Stacy with a knife.
Melissa had taken a nap upstairs and was awakened by Stacy's screams. From the top of the stairs Melissa saw Ward on top of Stacy.
She called 9-1-1 and heard Stacy pleading, "Stop!," while Ward said, You better be quiet." Ward was still at the scene, covered with blood and pocket knife in hand, when police arrived.
Stacy Payne's torso was nearly sliced in two, her throat was cut to her windpipe and her wrist was slashed to the bone. She was nevertheless alive for a short time. Vaginal bruising and Stacy's DNA on Ward's genitals supported the Rape and Criminal Deviate Conduct charges.
Ward was on probation for a Burglary in Missouri at the time of the crime and had a dozen prior convictions for Public Indecency/Indecent Exposure.
The Indiana Supreme Court overturned that conviction in 2004, saying jurors were exposed to too much pretrial publicity. Ward was retried in Vanderburgh County in 2007. He pleaded guilty and was again sentenced to death.
Ward is one of 12 people on Indiana's death row at Michigan City, all of whose appeals are now in the federal court system, according the Indiana Public Defender Council.
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