Tennessee governor stays five executions planned for this year

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Stating that, “The death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Correction to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced last week that the state will launch “a third-party review of a lethal injection testing oversight” that led him to issue last month’s stay of execution for Oscar Smith about 30 minutes before it was to take place.

All five executions scheduled in Tennessee, including Smith’s, have been put on hold for the year. The Tennessee Supreme Court will determine new dates for the executions.

According to Lee’s announcement, the independent review will be conducted by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton, who will look at the:

  • Circumstances that led to testing the lethal injection chemicals for only potency and sterility but not endotoxins preparing for the April 21 execution;
  • Clarity of the lethal injection process manual that was last updated in 2018, and adherence to testing policies since the update;
  • TDOC staffing considerations.

Since 2019, three of Tennessee’s four executions were by electric chair. Prisoners have the choice of either electrocution or lethal injection, with lethal injection the default method. 

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