The federal circuit court of appeals has moved prison inmate John Middleton one step closer to execution this evening, refusing to reconsider an order issued by a panel of the court’s judges lifting a stay of execution. The stay had been issued by a district court judge who says Middleton’s mental state merits a stay.

The stay of execution, however, will not be lifted until 6 o’clock, giving Middleton’s legal team time to file appeals with the United States Supreme Court–which turned down appeals yesterday–and with the Missouri Supreme Court, which has not considered claims that Middleton is mentally unfit for execution. The judges on the circuit court of appeals say the federal court system cannot consider his mental condition until it has been considered through the state court system. However, Middleton attorney Joe Perkovich told the Missourinet earlier this week that Missouri laws have no provision for such an appeal.

Inside the prison at Bonne Terre, Middleton waits in a holding cell a short distance from the execution chamber. In another part of the prison, a minister, a Middleton sister and a Middleton niece are waiting to learn if they will be witnesses to his execution. In a separate room, seven relatives of two of Middleton’s three victims in 1995 wait for the same thing.