Tennessee top court postpones executions to determine constitutional issues
Tennessee top court postpones executions to determine constitutional issues

[JURIST] The Tennessee Supreme Court [official website] has postponed [order, PDF] the execution of four inmates on death row as it decides whether current protocols are constitutional, effectively halting all executions in the state. Once the constitutional issues are decided, the court “shall exercise its authority to set new dates of execution.” Friday’s order makes Tennessee the latest state to halt executions while exploring issues surrounding the drugs used for lethal injections. According to the Department of Corrections of Tennessee [official website], the number of inmates currently on death row within the state is 69; 68 are male, and one is female. The last person sentenced to death row was in December. Tennessee has not executed anyone since 2009 and has only carried out six executions in the past four decades.

Lethal injection [JURIST archive] and execution methods have been at the forefront of the death penalty debate for the past few years. Earlier this month the Delaware Senate voted to repeal [JURIST report] the death penalty, but the legislation includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently on Delaware’s death row. In March Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill [JURIST report] to restore the firing squad as a method of execution, making Utah one of the few states with that option. Like in Oklahoma, if drugs used for lethal injections are unavailable, a firing squad would be allowed. Also last month more than a dozen [JURIST report] former state attorneys general asked the US Supreme Court to rule Oklahoma’s use of the three-drug execution cocktail unconstitutional. Oklahoma became the face [JURIST report] of the legal injection drug debate last year after death row inmate Clayton Lockett died of an apparent heart attack shortly after doctors called off a failed attempt to execute him using a lethal injection drug called midazolam.