published Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Tennessee Supreme Court halts next 4 executions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Supreme Court on Monday halted the executions of four death row inmates to allow a lower court to examine the constitutionality of the state's new lethal injection procedure.

Convicted killer Stephen Michael West was set to die by lethal injection at 10 p.m. CST Tuesday for the 1986 stabbing deaths of Wanda Romines and her 15-year-old daughter Sheila Romines.

Earlier this month, the state's high court granted West a temporary stay so a lower court could hear evidence in his lawsuit claiming the first drug in Tennessee's three-drug lethal injection protocol does not adequately anesthetize prisoners, violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled last week that Tennessee's process "allows for death by suffocation while conscious."

Bonnyman said in her ruling that the 5 grams of sodium thiopental, the first drug meant to render the inmate unconscious, was insufficient. She said the state should adopt some method to determine whether the inmate was awake before being injected with the second drug, a paralyzing agent.

In response, the state added a procedure in which a prison warden will brush a hand over an inmate's eyelashes and gently shake the inmate to check for consciousness.

If the warden determines the inmate is unconscious after the first injection, he directs the executioner to administer the next two drugs. If the warden determines the inmate is still conscious, a second IV line will give a second dose of 5 grams of sodium thiopental.

The Tennessee Supreme Court approved the plans, but West's attorneys urged them on Friday to halt the execution because they say the state hasn't proven that the new procedure is constitutional.

"Defendants waited until the eve of the Thanksgiving holidays to spring a new protocol on the court and Mr. West with nothing to demonstrate its constitutionality," the attorneys said.

On Monday, the Tennessee Supreme Court reconsidered its action and granted West's request to test the constitutionality of the procedure in lower court.

Until the issue is resolved, the high court also stayed the executions of death row inmates Billy Ray Irick — who was to be executed next month— and Edmund Zagorski and Edward Jerome Harbison.

Parties in the West case are expected to submit arguments or evidence regarding the revised protocol and the trial court is expected to render a judgment within 90 days, according to the high court.

In 2001, West was hours away from death when a judge granted him a stay so he could pursue federal appeals, which he has since completed. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen declined to intervene when West's attorneys asked for clemency, spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said.

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inquiringmind said...

Repaying an evil with an evil isn't the way to Grace

November 30, 2010 at 9 a.m.
My2centsworth said...

I am so tired of all these bleeding hearts that want to either keep these convicted criminals alive or do not want them to suffer any pain at their executions. They either stay locked up getting better treatment, education, medical, and legal treatment than their victims, or just the average Joe. Many of these convicted criminals are on death row for years, I have heard of some that have been on death row for decades. This (civilized bleeding heart) society cares more about the treatment and well-being of the criminal than it does for itself or the ones whom these deviants have harmed. When are you going to wake up?

USSA is one day closer

November 30, 2010 at 9:39 a.m.
dmccormick001 said...

Executing a convicted murderer isn't "an evil". It's justice. And the purpose is not to "repay" the criminal for his actions, but to protect society. The criminal has the choice to obey the law, and can choose not to commit murder, which is the only "evil" in this equation. Once the criminal has made the choice to take an innocent victim's life, the people of the state have the right to protect themselves from him and others like him by executing him in accordance with the laws of the state. If you are indeed interested in "Grace", consider that even the grace that God extends to us is the result of the death of His Son for our sins. Our sins were not forgiven until the punishment for them had been placed upon Christ.

November 30, 2010 at 9:56 a.m.
hmgreen said...

An eye for an eye. If a monster had murdered your child you would have no sympathy for him.

November 30, 2010 at 11:04 a.m.
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