Connecticut’s highest court on Thursday spared the lives of all 11 men who were on death row, saying it would be unconstitutional to execute them.

Connecticut’s legislature voted in 2012 to abolish capital punishment for future crimes, but that law did not apply to inmates awaiting execution.

The court acted on an appeal from one of them, Eduardo Santiago, sentenced to die for a murder-for-hire killing in 2000.

“Connecticut’s capital punishment scheme no longer comports with our state’s contemporary standards of decency,” the court said in a 4-3 decision. “It therefore offends the state constitutional prohibition against excessive and disproportionate punishment.”

The ruling also found that executing prisoners has not discouraged would-be criminals from committing murder.

“In the absence of any indication that the death penalty, as administered in this state, has forestalled the commission of capital crimes, it is apparent that capital punishment no longer serves any meaningful deterrent function in Connecticut,” the court said.

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