DOVER, Del. - A federal appeals court cleared the way Thursday for an execution in Delaware when it overturned a judge's decision that had put it on hold.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia came hours before the scheduled execution of Shannon Johnson, which was to take place about 12:01 a.m. Friday.

A federal district court judge in Wilmington had stayed the execution in response to a filing by federal public defenders.

Johnson had waived his right to further appeals and sought to be executed, but federal public defenders attempted to intervene in his case without his consent. They filed a motion last week arguing that Johnson's estranged sister, Lakeisha Ford, should be allowed to argue on his behalf that he is mentally incompetent.

On Wednesday, U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory Sleet in Wilmington put the execution on hold and set oral arguments for Monday to consider the defenders' motion.

But a three-judge panel of the appeals court said Sleet did not identify any "potentially meritorious" issues raised by Ford's petition.

Johnson was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Cameron Hamlin, 25, who was shot after Johnson found him sitting in a car with his ex-girlfriend near downtown Wilmington. Johnson later shot the former girlfriend, but she survived.

Johnson's attorney, Jennifer-Kate Aaronson, welcomed the appeals court ruling. "Mr. Johnson is pleased with the outcome and hopes there are no further appeals," she said.