10 Last-minute Stays of Execution

Ted Bundy Gets a Reprieve from "Old Sparky"
Ted Bundy, seated in court with his lawyers, while on trial for killings of two Florida State University students. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Ted Bundy, a serial killer who may have killed more than three dozen young women, was once described by journalist Hugh Aynesworth as "the most profound enigma in the history of U.S. criminal justice." Bundy, who was sentenced to die in 1978 for savagely bludgeoning two women to death in a college sorority house, and received another death sentence in 1980 for abducting and killing a 12-year-old girl, was as sick a monster as they come [sources: Florida State University, Johnson]. Yet he was also handsome, articulate and charismatic enough to draw scores of admiring groupies to the courtroom [sources: Aynesworth and Michaud].

And despite having multiple death sentences, the former law student managed to stay alive in prison for nearly a decade, in part by deftly manipulating the system to cause delays. For example, he twice sought postponements of a clemency hearing, and then on the eve of the third, fired his attorney in an attempt to put it off one more time [source: Nordheimer].

Bundy also won multiple stays of execution. In November 1986, two hours after a federal judge in Orlando rejected his appeal, he got a three-judge federal appeals panel to grant him an indefinite stay. The order came at 12:50 a.m., just six hours before he was to be executed [source: United Press International]. On Jan. 24, 1989, though, Bundy finally ran out of tricks, kept his date with "Old Sparky" and was electrocuted at Florida State Prison [source: Nordheimer].