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ST. LOUIS (AP) - A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for John Middleton, hours before he is scheduled to be put to death in Missouri.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled Tuesday that there was enough question about whether Middleton is insane that a hearing should be held to determine if he should be executed. The U.S. Constitution prohibits executing the mentally ill.

The Missouri Attorney General's office immediately appealed the ruling.

RELATED: Lawyers: Mo. condemned man deserves new trial

Middleton was a rural northern Missouri methamphetamine dealer convicted of killing three people in 1995 because he feared they would go to police. He would be the sixth Missouri inmate executed this year.

In a separate ruling late Monday, a court of appeals refused to halt the execution on Middleton's claim that he is innocent.

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