Reprieve, in law, temporary suspension of execution of the sentence of a criminal. The term usually refers to sentences of death. A reprieve is granted in most instances by the chief executive of a state or country. When the court that tried the prisoner grants a reprieve, it is often called a stay of execution. The most common reason for granting a reprieve is to allow time for a review of a case when new evidence is uncovered. A reprieve differs from a commutation, which is a reduction of sentence, and from a pardon, which is a permanent cancellation of sentence.