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November 30, 2010

"TN Supreme Court halts 4 executions over lethal injection questions"

The title of this post is the headline of this article in The Tennessean, which discusses a ruling coming late yesterday from the Tennessee Supreme Court. Here is how the article begins:

Just days after saying the execution of Stephen Michael West could go forward, the Tennessee Supreme Court changed its mind, saying there are unanswered questions about the way the state performs lethal injections.

The last-minute decision puts four executions indefinitely on hold and surprised even West's attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Stephen Ferrell.

"Reconsideration is something that traditionally doesn't happen all that often," Ferrell said. "But I'm glad to see they saw the lack of our opportunity to have any input. I'm pleased they were able to admit they may have made the first decision too hastily."

The court stayed the executions amid concern that inmates might be conscious and in pain during lethal injections, which could be considered "cruel and unusual punishment." Last week, the court approved checking for consciousness by having a warden shake the inmate and brush a hand across t he eyelashes. But the court reversed itself Monday, saying West's attorneys deserve a chance to challenge the new method's constitutionality.

The stay came just 30 hours before West was to be put to death. He had even made his last meal request: an extra-large Domino's pizza with everything on it except black olives and pineapple.

By Monday evening, West was taken off death watch at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. And he wouldn't be getting his pizza.

West was convicted in 1986 in the murder of Wanda Romines and her 15-year-old daughter, Sheila, in Union County. The state declined to comment on the ruling, but Romines' nephew, Eddie Campbell, was distressed by the court's decision.

"I just can't believe it's happening," Campbell said. "He had a trial, and he had a fair trial, and he's had every appeal that he could possibly have in the last 24 years and eight months. He was given the death penalty, and it should have been the death penalty two times over."

November 30, 2010 at 04:36 PM | Permalink


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Its is amazing 2 1/2 years after Baze, several states like Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri still can't get it together.

Posted by: DaveP | Nov 30, 2010 6:34:20 PM

Not to mention California, North Carolina, Delaware etc.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 30, 2010 9:23:05 PM

Only 10% of us will have a peaceful death. Most of will suffer weeks or months, then go painfully. Most of us have not criminally harmed another. Why is the murderer entitled to absolute perfection in the painlessness of death. Were he to have anxiety for a minute, that would still be nicer a death than 90% of us will have.

Here is the stupidest part of the lawyer dumbass decision. They fret over a few minutes of awareness. These imbeciles have had the murderer on a countdown to death for 25 years. He has endured anxiety about the set date for decades. Not even the most moribund patient knows the date of death with any certainty. All of us are spared that horrible knowledge, but not the murderer, thanks to the lawyer dumbass. The setting and announcing of the date is the greatest cruelty of all. But these imbeciles on the Court cannot see that issue. Why? They are lawyer dumbasses. That is not an epithet but a lawyer term of art. It refers to what happens to modern students with IQ's of 300 before law school who emerge with less mental ability than students of Special Ed. Japan announces the date on the day of execution, similar to what happens to most of us.

This is a remedy for the murderer. It lacks symmetry and mutuality. What anesthesia did the murderer use before dispatching his murder victims? Seems unfair to have such nitpicking over a heartless, selfish, crazed butcher.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 1, 2010 12:09:37 AM

MikeinCt and SC

good points. I thought the issue in Tennessee they are litigating now was resolved in Harbison vs. Little in the 6th Circuit?

what is the holdup in Delaware? The 3rd Circuit upheld their protocol early this year.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 1, 2010 6:10:36 AM

SC claims of stupidity work better w/o the over the top rhetoric. The rule is not "absolute perfection" and the business about people struggling when they die is tiresome. People suffer during final illness. Well, why care about what happens to prisoners then? People who are totally innocent suffer in hospitals. So, prisons can be as painful as substandard hospitals people go into. Well no, since government action is different. And, "cruel and unusual punishment" rules are specifically concerned about means of punishment. Finally, bad or not, these courts need to follow SC precedent.

The point about the stress related to extended appeals is valid. But, I'm not sure you and others are totally on board on part of the solution -- better procedures that address the issues better and quicker.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 1, 2010 8:59:08 AM

The circuit sent it back the district court that stayed the execution in 2006. Near as I can tell, Judge Robinson has been sitting on it ever sense.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Dec 2, 2010 7:37:34 PM

I had some time to do research. The 3rd Circuit upheld Judge Robinson's denial of the challenge to the Delaware protocol on 2/1/10. Jackson appealed to SCOTUS and cert was denied on 10/12/10. Jackson vs. Danberg. 3rd Circuit's opinion is good reading.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 2, 2010 9:08:48 PM

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