WASHINGTON — Hours before he was set to die Wednesday, a convicted murderer who has spent two decades on death row over the killing of two men who abused him sexually as a child won a stay of execution.

Last week, Philadelphia Judge Teresa Sarmina suspended the execution of Terry Williams, overturned his death sentence and announced a hearing to hand down a new punishment.

She ruled the prosecution withheld evidence at his trial.

Prosecutors appealed, but Pennsylvania's highest court sided with Sarmina.

The part withheld from the trial was evidence that the deceased had been accused of abusing Williams as a child.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has wisely decided to consider all of the evidence before making a final decision and we look forward to presenting our case in the coming months," said Shawn Nolan, an attorney for Williams.

Williams, 46, was sentenced to death in 1986 for killing two years earlier a man suspected of abusing him sexually as a child. He also allegedly killed another of his alleged abusers a few months before when he was only 17.

The case had drawn protests from the European Union and more than 150 former prosecutors, judges, law professors, childhood behavioral experts and ex-jurors in his trial who pressed for his death sentence to be commuted to life in prison.

[Gavel and law book image via Shutterstock]