The Supreme Court of Arkansas has halted two executions mere hours before they had been scheduled to take place.
As the American state battled the legal system in an attempt to carry out a record eight executions over 11 days in April, lawyers for two of the condemned raised questions about their clients’ mental competency.
A 4-3 decision in Arkansas’ highest court stayed the executions of convicted murderers Don Davis and Bruce ward, who have each spent over two decades on death row and were due to receive the lethal injection on Monday night.
The initial decision to carry out the death sentences in Arkansas, where there has not been an execution for 12 years, was made by Governor Asa Hutchinson due to the impending expiration of the state’s deadly drugs.
Demonstrators gathered outside the state house in Little Rock to protest the planned executions.
The American Bar Association sent a letter to Governor Hutchinson earlier this month saying the hasty schedule appears not to allow for due process of law.
Actor Johnny Depp attended the rally to show solidarity with the convicted, telling reporters: “If we’re expected to live to the letter of the law to that degree, then I figure, whether you believe in the death penalty or not, surely the law must abide by the letter?”