Arkansas' Supreme Court halted two executions hours before they were scheduled to take place on Monday, while a federal appeals court allowed a plan by the state that originally called for a record eight executions over 11 days in April.


(For graphic on executions in the United States click: http://tmsnrt.rs/2puSJKI)

In a 4-3 decision, Arkansas' highest court stayed the executions of convicted murderers Don Davis and Bruce Ward, who have each spent more than 20 years each on death row. Their lawyers had raised questions about their mental competency.

A separate decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis vacated a decision made over the weekend by a federal district judge that halted all eight executions.

The appeals court's decision did not pertain to the Arkansas State Supreme Court's decision, which meant there were no plans in place to execute Davis and Ward on Monday evening, the state's attorney general's office said.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)