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Hours before his scheduled execution, a Texas death row inmate won a temporary reprieve while the state’s highest court considers its first appeal under a new law giving inmates access to state-paid DNA testing. Richard Kutzner, an air-conditioning repairman, had been scheduled to die by injection at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the stay Tuesday evening. The case could help determine how the DNA testing law should be applied in lower courts, Rick Wetzel, the court’s general counsel, said in Wednesday’s editions of the Houston Chronicle. The law, which went into effect April 5, allows convicts access to DNA testing that could exonerate them if the tests were not available at trial. Kutzner, 58, earned death sentences for two slayings, 17 days apart, in early 1996. He was set to die Wednesday for the second of those killings, the strangling of a 59-year-old woman working at her real estate office in Montgomery County, north of Houston. Kutzner’s requests for DNA testing had twice been denied by the trial court. No DNA evidence was used in the original case. Kutzner would have been the 11th inmate executed this year in Texas, where a record 40 condemned prisoners were put to death last year. Texas is the 12th state to enact a post-conviction genetic testing law. The post-conviction DNA testing measure applies in cases where biological evidence exists and can be subjected to genetic testing and where identity was an issue at trial. The law requires the state to preserve biological evidence that can undergo genetic testing. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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