A federal judge on Monday temporarily halted the scheduled execution of a convicted murderer in Mississippi in order to allow attorneys to argue whether the state has improperly kept him from getting a psychiatric evaluation.
Edwin Hart Turner, 38, who was convicted of murdering two people during convenience store robberies in 1995, was set to die by lethal injection on Wednesday.
In an order on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves postponed Turner's execution until at least February 20.
Last week, Turner's attorney filed a court brief accusing the Mississippi Department of Corrections of improperly preventing a psychiatrist from evaluating Turner.
Attorney James Craig of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center said in the court filing that important information that related to Turner's mental health wasn't presented during his trial.
Craig said Turner had a "long and extensive" history of mental illness. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing mentally retarded people is cruel and unusual punishment. Turner is asking the Supreme Court to extend that ruling to the mentally ill.
Turner was sentenced to death for killing Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry in 2 separate incidents in Carroll County, Mississippi on the same day in 1995.
Before the murders, a suicide attempt had left Turner's face disfigured. Witnesses identified him at 1 of the crime scenes by a towel he wore around his head to hide his disfigurement.
An accomplice, Paul M. Stewart, confessed to the crimes and testified against Turner. Stewart was convicted of 2 counts of capital murder and sentenced to 2 consecutive life terms in prison.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Hood said he had not yet reviewed the court order postponing the execution and would only comment on the case through court filings.