On Saturday, the Tennessee Supreme Court gave Stephen West a temporary stay of execution, deciding that the Davidson County Chancery Court can hear evidence in a lawsuit that West’s attorneys filed claiming that inmates executed by lethal injection experience severe pain, violating their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit claims the first drug in Tennessee’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, sodium thiopental, does not properly anesthetize inmates, which is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
In this latest appeal, West’s attorneys state that the autopsy results from Steve Henley’s execution in February 2009 indicate that Henley may not have been unconscious when he died. Henley’s autopsy, not released by the state for months after his execution, showed that the level of sodium thiopental in Henley’s body just after the execution was inadequate to cause unconsciousness. The appeal states that witnesses during the execution saw Henley’s face turn blue and purple and also said that the autopsy suggests he died from suffocation while also not adequately anesthetized.
And, though this latest news about Steve Henley’s execution is extremely painful to hear, particularly for his family and friends, TADP hopes that his ordeal might help other inmates facing execution.
TADP also wants to thank all of you who wrote letters, mailed clemency cards, made calls, or sent emails to Governor Bredesen requesting clemency.
TADP will get out information about the statewide vigils to be held on November 30, if Steve West does not get further relief from the courts.
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