ST. LOUIS -

Two federal judges in Missouri gave stays of execution to white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin just hours before his scheduled death.

U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled late Tuesday afternoon that a lawsuit filed by Franklin and 20 other death-row inmates challenging Missouri's execution protocol must first be resolved.   The state appealed that ruling to the federal Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
 
Meanwhile, a second federal judge also stayed the execution, saying a defense appeal over Franklin's mental competency needs more review.

The 63-year-old inmate was scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing Gerald Gordon, 42, in a sniper attack outside a synagogue in suburban St. Louis in 1977.  It was one of as many as 20 killings committed by Franklin, who targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980.