Tennessee resumes lethal injection executions after moratorium expires

[JURIST] Tennessee executed its first death row inmate Wednesday after a moratorium on executions [executive order, PDF; JURIST report] imposed by the governor in February expired earlier this month. Philip Workman's execution had been postponed five times, and last minute appeals by his lawyers arguing that lethal injection [JURIST news archive] constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and that the state's new lethal injection protocols had not been reviewed sufficiently were unsuccessful. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen [official website] ordered the moratorium in February and directed the Tennessee Department of Corrections to conduct a "comprehensive review of the manner in which death sentences are administered... and provide [the governor] new protocols and related written procedures in administering death sentences in Tennessee." Bredesen accepted revised death penalty protocols [PDF text; JURIST report] for lethal injections last week and the moratorium expired May 2.

The new protocol includes more detailed guidelines for administering lethal injections but still includes a controversial three-drug "cocktail" which some say may be ineffective in preventing inmates from suffering a painful death [JURIST report]. The American Bar Association [official website], which takes no position on capitol punishment, had urged Bredesen to broaden the death penalty review [press release; JURIST report] "to permit a thorough review of every aspect of capital punishment administration in the state," including "excessive caseloads and inadequate standards for defense counsel" and "racial disparities and inadequate review of death row inmates' claims of actual innocence." The New York Times has more.

 

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