Arkansas court blocks execution of 2 inmates

People gather at a rally opposing the state's upcoming executions, on the front steps of Arkansas' Capitol, Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark. (Stephen B. Thornton/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted the executions of two men originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night, putting another legal roadblock in place in Arkansas’ plan to conduct eight executions before the end of April.

Justices granted the stays Monday afternoon for Don Davis and Bruce Ward. The inmates wanted stays of execution while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants. The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments in that case April 24.

The inmates’ attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts. They’ve argued that Ward has a lifelong history of severe mental illness and that Davis has an IQ in the range of intellectual disability.

Arkansas’ supply of one key execution drug expires April 30. A federal judge has also stayed the executions on different grounds, and the state has appealed that ruling.