updated 11/19/2004 2:53:29 AM ET 2004-11-19T07:53:29

For the second time this year, the Supreme Court has postponed the execution of a man convicted of murdering a robbery victim nearly 20 years ago.

About 40 minutes after Troy Kunkle could have received a lethal injection Thursday night, state officials received word the high court had blocked the execution.

Kunkle, 38, was in a small holding cell next to the Texas death house when he received word. “Ecstatic,” he said when asked to describe his feeling. “Praise God.”

In July the justices blocked Kunkle’s execution about nine hours before he was scheduled to die. After refusing last month to review the case, the court changed its mind Thursday, voting 5-4 to issue an indefinite stay.

Kunkle’s lawyers argued the execution should be stopped in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that found that some capital murder defendants in Texas were not given enough chance to present mitigating evidence.

“The jury heard evidence that could have persuaded it to spare Mr. Kunkle’s life, but was limited to instructions that gave it no vehicle for expressing that conclusion,” attorney Robert McGlasson said.

Recited lyrics to Metallica song
Kunkle and several friends were high on drugs and beer and looking for someone to rob when they offered Stephen Horton, 31, a ride home Aug. 11, 1984. Kunkle, then 18, shot Horton in the back of the head with a pistol; the victim had $13 in his wallet.

According to testimony at Kunkle’s capital murder trial, after killing Horton he chanted: “Another day, another death, another sorrow, another breath” — the refrain from the Metallica song “No Remorse” on the album “Kill ’Em All.”

Three companions received prison terms ranging from 30 years to life.

Defense lawyers said Kunkle was raised in a troubled home and left mentally scarred by parents who had been treated for depression.

Horton’s father said he was angered by the appeal. “I’m very upset with the court system,” said Nolan Horton, 74. “My name for a lot of them is do-gooders. They’re afraid they’re going to step on toes. Some of those toes need to be stepped on.”

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