Tennessee Supreme Court Stops Four Executions

Yesterday the Tennessee Supreme Court halted the execution of Stephen West, who was scheduled to die tonight, as well as the scheduled executions of 3 other inmates: Billy Ray Irick, Edmund Zagorski, and E.J. Harbison. The court stopped the executions in order to further study the constitutionality of the new lethal injection protocol in Tennessee. 

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman recently ruled that Tennessee’s protocol “allows for death by suffocation while conscious.” In response to that ruling, the state added a procedure where the Warden brushes his hand over the inmate’s eyelashes and shakes him to ensure that he is unconscious before the second drug, a paralytic, is administered.

The Tennessee Supreme Court approved the new plan just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday without the state having to prove that this new procedure is constitutional.  “The  defendants (the state) 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,” West’s attorneys said.

The Tennessee Supreme Court reconsidered its decision and is now allowing for the issue to be considered by a lower court.  The court is expected to hear arguments and  rule within 90 days. Until the issue is settled, the executions of Billy Ray Irick, Edmund Zagorski, and E.J. Harbison are also stayed.

This turn of events in the continuing saga of Tennessee’s death penalty demonstrates, yet again, that the system is broken and should be repealed. Now, the family and friends of Wands and Shelia Romines are subjected to more anguished waiting and legal wrangling. Had West received two life sentences as his co-defendant did, the state’s time, energy, and resources could have been focused on the Romines family and measures to prevent such violence from happening again, instead of its current focus–executing Stephen West.

When will we decide that enough is enough?

Read the full story.

Photo provided by TNJN

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