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May 9, 2007

Tennessee's lethal injection execution

As detailed in this AP report and this local article, in Tennessee Phillip Workman "was executed by lethal injection early Wednesday after state and federal courts rejected his attorneys' pleas for more time to examine the state's newly revised execution protocols."   According to the AP report, he "showed no obvious signs of discomfort or pain" during the execution process. Coincidentally, "Workman was executed nearly 25 years to the day of his conviction in the 1981 shooting death of Memphis police Lt. Ronald Oliver."

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May 9, 2007 at 07:59 AM | Permalink


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» Workman's Execution: from The Volokh Conspiracy
At 1am central time, Phillip Workman was executed for the murder of Lieutenant Ronald Oliver. Of note, Workman was the first capital defendant to be executed since the state of Tennessee's revised its lethal injection protocol s... [Read More]

Tracked on May 9, 2007 10:26:52 AM


You wrote "Coincidentally" but I think you meant "Unfathomably"

Posted by: LonesomeClerk | May 9, 2007 10:27:30 AM

Workman's case is definitely interesting. I think executing him was a big win for the state, as Tennessee has now successfully navigated a vigorous lethal injection challenge, and with it got a very favorable and detailed ruling from the Sixth Circuit. The Tennessee has requested dates for 3 murderers who each committed their crimes over two decades ago. Likely, these will go through, although it is possible that a Sixth Circuit panel could ignore Sutton's opinion.

The other aspect of this case that makes it a big win is the fact that Workman's innocence claim was actually pretty strong (at least from the perspective of appellate judges "who could swallow such a tale"--S.cotus, please forgive me for not giving the pinpoint cite to Kyles v. Whitley). It is certainly a lot stronger than Kevin Cooper's, and stronger than Paul House's (speaking of appellate judges swallowing a tale). However, in reality, as opposed to the rarefied world of the Sixth Circuit, Workman's claim was pretty weak. Bottom line, everyone agrees he struggled with two officers--both of whom wound up shot. What are the odds that Workman stopped at one cop shot? And what are the odds that in the split second between Stoddard getting shot and Oliver getting murdered, some cop managed to squeeze off a round and hit the wrong guy. Pretty unlikely--it seems to me.

There are some troubling aspects to this case. First, Judge Campbell's actions. Campbell's grant of the TRO was poorly reasoned and written. Worse, he seems to have participated in some judge-shopping. Workman's other appeals were in another federal district-the Western District of Tennesse. Then, for the lethal injection challenge, Workman chose the Middle District. Campbell ought to have taken a dim view of this--but apparently, this Clinton judge wanted to get in on the action and make some law--so he issues a TRO on some pretty thin gruel (e.g., that a lack of monitoring likely violates the constitution).

Second, all the last-minute appeals made this a circus. It is an indignity that Tennessee and the professionals who work for the AG's office should not have to deal with from federal courts. Workman killed Lt. Oliver 26 years ago, and the courts have had this for 25 years. There is no good reason for the last-minute blizzard. None.

Third, the dismissal of the state's interest in executing convicted murders was given short shrift by Judge Campbell and Judge Cole. States have a right not to be jerked around by last-minute stay requests. This has been repeatedly stated numerous times. So why can't these Dem judges get that through their thick skulls? A state's interest in enforcing its criminal judgment in a manner that has not been declared unconstitutional is worthy of respect from federal judges. Yes, we want to make sure that the Workmans of the world get their (to borrow a phrase) "super due process", but these arrogant judges need to realize that the states' right to give these guys the big jab without undue interference from federal courts is of constitutional moment. This is, of course, to say nothing of the anguish of the victims' families (and please don't scream at me, I know that one of Oliver's family members didn't want the execution), who have to endure more waiting and unfinished business. People like Judge Campbell and Judge Cole care nothing (it is apparent from the tone of their rulings) for these victims' families--nothing. You would think that Sixth Circuit judges would be sensitive to this, given the Sixth Circuit's miserable performance in the John Byrd case and the anguish that caused Sharon Tewksbury, the victim's widow. But no--they don't. And neither do the vast majority of abolitionists--they'll tell you about people like Bud Welch and how he suffered when McVeigh died, but the suffering of Sharon Tewksbury at the hands of federal judges who should have known better is irrelevant. And for that, in my view, they deserve not just criticism for being lawless judges, but also contempt for tilting the scales in favor of murderers.

I hesitate before writing this, but what the hell, why stop now. You have to wonder about people like Bud Welch. I can certainly understand that victims' family members may not want the death penalty and that they may feel empathy for the murderer's family (can anyone imagine what the Va Tech mass killer's family feels right now?). But there is a world of difference between that and actively seeking to help the very person that killed your kid. I know, there are some psychological reasons for doing such a thing (some theorize that the killer exercised awesome power of the lives of the family, so the helping of the killer is a way to get some of the sense of powerlessness back); I think that for some, moral preening is part of it too--look at me, I can help the very person that murdered my child. Whatever the reasons, I find it unsavory. All I know is that if someone murdered one of my children, and if I opposed the death penalty, I'd find something else to do with my time than helping the guy who killed my child.

Posted by: federalist | May 9, 2007 12:16:51 PM

This is reaaly interesting[Tn ROCKS!] Not because of this but because it's so pretty there

Posted by: lex | Oct 21, 2007 6:30:49 PM

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