A U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring the exclusion of jurors for racial reasons could help William Andrews avoid execution for his role in three 1974 torture slayings, his attorney says.

Andrews, the nation's longest-standing death row inmate, was condemned to die in the murders of two women and a man during a robbery of Ogden's Hi Fi Shop.Pierre Dale Selby, the admitted triggerman, was executed in August 1987. Andrews did not shoot the victims, but prosecutors argued the caustic drain cleaner he forced them to drink could have been fatal itself.

"This is a significant decision that contains some language that could be very useful to us," defense attorney Robert Anderson said of the court's ruling in the case of Larry Joe Powers v. Ohio.

The state's special prosecutor, Robert Wallace, said he disagrees with Anderson. Wallace believes the high court ruling has no bearing on the Andrews case.

But Anderson said he's trying to decide how best to apply the decision to the Andrews appeal and anticipates filing documents in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Arguments in Andrews' most recent appeal were heard in that court in January.

Anderson contends the Supreme Court's decision in the Powers case could affect Andrews' appeal because it strengthens an earlier ruling that potential jurors could not be excluded from participation in trials solely because of their race.

The previous case, decided by the court in 1986, involved a black defendant and black potential jurors. Powers, who is white, questioned the exclusion of seven black jurors prior to his trial for aggravated murder and related offenses.

Andrews' appeals repeatedly have claimed that his civil rights were violated because a black juror was excluded in his trial.

But Wallace said the only thing new in the Powers ruling is that it addresses "cases involving defendants and potential jurors of a different race."