Eleventh-hour stay of execution granted for inmate scheduled to die

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PHOENIX - The lawyers for an Arizona death row inmate set to be executed on Tuesday at 10 a.m. were successful at getting a stay of execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted the stay of execution around 4 p.m. Monday.

Daniel Wayne Cook was taken off death watch and returned to his regular cell Monday evening, according to his attorneys, who said Cook was "very pleased" at the high court's decision.

The court granted the stay until it can consider Cook's attorney's argument that he had ineffective counsel during his post-conviction proceedings.

Cook said he was physically and sexually abused from a young age by his parents, grandparents and other adults in his life. But his current defense team said that information was never introduced in court.

"It's our contention that if that information had been presented in his case, the death sentence would not have been imposed," said assistant federal public defender Dale Baich.

An Arizona state clemency board decided against intervening in the case of Cook. He was convicted of raping, torturing and strangling Kevin Swaney, 16, and Carlos Cruz-Ramos, 26, in 1987 in Lake Havasu City.

Swaney's brother Jim, reached by phone, called the stay of execution "unbelievable."

"Let's just drag it out a little further, let's spend more of the state's money we don't have, because he was abused as a kid," Swaney said.

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide Cook's argument is not legitimate and allow the execution to go forward, or decide to send the case back to the state for another trial or sentencing trial. Or they could refuse to hear the case altogether, in which case the execution would be rescheduled.

Cook's attorneys said they don't anticipate any action before the fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.