Utah Department of Corrections, Associated Press
A Utah judge has halted the execution date for death row inmate Michael Anthony Archuleta (pictured here) pending a federal appeal.

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has halted the April 5 execution date for Michael Anthony Archuleta, who had requested to die by firing squad for the murder of a Southern Utah University student.

In an expected move, Archuleta, 50, decided to pursue an appeal in federal court, prompting U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell to sign an order to stay an execution warrant for April 5 that had been signed in state court in February. The stay was issued last month.

"This stay shall remain in place through the entry of final judgment in this matter and will remain in effect until the issuance of the mandate by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals," Campbell stated in the order.

She noted that Archuleta has not yet pursued an appeal in federal court.

Archuleta was sentenced to death in connection with the Nov. 22, 1988, murder of  Gordon Ray Church, 28. Church offered Archuleta and Lance Conway Wood, who were both on parole, a ride after meeting the pair at a gas station.

After driving into a nearby canyon, where the two men threatened to rob Church but instead began to severely beat and torture the man before raping him with a tire iron and burying him in a shallow grave.

Wood told his parole officer and led investigators to the body the next day. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Archuleta's most recent appeal — on the grounds that he had ineffective assistance of counsel in both his trial and subsequent appeals — was rejected by the Utah Supreme Court in November 2011.

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