About an hour before his date with the electric chair on Friday, a killer's newfound desire to become an organ donor won him a delay.
Larry Lonchar, who killed three people over a $10,000 gambling debt, was granted a stay while lawyers challenged electrocution as cruel and unusual. He wants another method, perhaps lethal injection, so he can donate his organs.
But lethal injection may make Lonchar's organs unusable.
"It would be marginal, but that would not be the best way to do it," said Dr. James Burdick, a professor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
Judge Byron Smith, who granted the stay of the scheduled 3 p.m. execution, said he would decide the issue by Tuesday. He also said he wanted to consider whether Lonchar was manipulating the courts.
The judge questioned Lonchar about whether he understood the request for a delay.
"My life is nothing. I'm not afraid of dying," Lonchar said. "If I can make my life a little worthwhile, then I'd like to."
Lonchar, who once said he would never appeal, changed his mind two years ago, 30 minutes before the execution. He said his father persuaded him to appeal.
Lonchar, 43, still could be executed next week if Smith lifts the stay. The execution order allows him to be put to death anytime before noon Friday.
In 1987, Lonchar was convicted of killing three people over a gambling debt he owed them.
Lonchar had considered donating his organs last week, but changed his mind. At Friday's hearing, he said his lawyers browbeat him into signing the petition.
In an interview Thursday, he said he was ready to die: "I hope there's a heaven and hell and I will be in hell where I belong."