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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has stopped the execution of a man convicted of fatally shooting three teenage housemates in Amarillo more than 14 years ago.

Justices decided Wednesday to halt the punishment until it resolves an appeal seeking review of John Balentine s case. The reprieve for the 43-year-old inmate came less than an hour before the former auto mechanic s scheduled execution in Huntsville.

Balentine has had three execution dates in as many years. Last year, the justices stopped his scheduled lethal injection, also about an hour before it was to have occurred.

Balentine s lawyer argues deficient legal help at his client s trial and earlier appeals. The lawyer also said the case deserves review so jurors can consider his poor, abusive childhood before deciding punishment.

State attorneys opposed the appeal.

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