All that now stands between Carty, 50, and death by lethal injection is an appeal to the Supreme Court, a highly uncertain recourse as it only considers a handful of cases each year.

The Fifth Circuit court in New Orleans conceded that Carty received an inadequate defence at her murder trial in 2002 but refused to reverse the jury's decision to impose the death penalty.

Carty's lawyers said the court also refused to hear new evidence which they say casts serious doubt on her conviction.

The 50 year-old was sentenced to death in 2002 for her part in the abduction and murder of a 25-year-old woman after a trial campaigners say was ''catastrophically flawed''

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