Tennessee plans 1st COVID-19-era execution, more scheduled

Tennessee will execute its first inmate since the outbreak of the pandemic. The state is planning to use a lethal injection procedure, which has been less common than the electric chair in recent decades.

Tennessee plans 1st COVID-19-era execution, more scheduled

Oscar Smith, 72 years old, will die in 1989 for the murders of his estranged spouse and her teenage sons. Tennessee will be executed using the preferred method of execution. This is in contrast to South Carolina which was preparing for an unusual U.S. firing squad execution. The execution of the April 29 execution was put on hold by South Carolina's Supreme Court . stated that a detailed order would be issued.

Tennessee's secrecy laws prohibit the public from knowing how Smith was executed using the drugs.

Despite the pleas of corrections officers, South Carolina legislators have not passed a similar law to protect drug suppliers' confidentiality. The state is now using an older and less commonly used execution method. In 2010, the last firing squad execution in America was completed.

South Carolina has highlighted its difficulties in obtaining lethal injection drugs in the recent years. This is a problem in many states due to refusals by manufacturers and pharmacies to supply execution-related medications.

Smith argued that he should be executed also by firing squad. He argued that it is less painful than Tennessee, but his lawsuit was denied.

This execution would be the first in a series of five Tennessee plans for 2022. Tennessee will resume its pre-pandemic pace and continue to execute inmates to death at a rapid, pre-pandemic rate. According to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, Tennessee and Texas have the highest number of death warrants this year.

Smith was scheduled to be executed in June 2020, but that was one of many dates postponed by the pandemic.

Smith was convicted for fatally stabbing and shooting Judith Smith, her sons Jason Burnett and Chad Burnett (13 and 16), at their Nashville home on October 1, 1989.

Smith maintains that he is innocent. Tuesday was rejected by Republican Gov. in a clemency file. Smith's legal team, Bill Lee, claimed that Smith had problems with the jury during his 1990 trial.

Smith said Monday that "there is one thing I know for a certainty," in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I know exactly where I am going." My faith and belief will get me to my savior, and my family who's already deceased.

After a new DNA analysis which found DNA from an unknown person on one the murder weapons, his attorneys refused to reopen the case.

Since February 2020, Nicholas Sutton, an inmate of an east Tennessee prison, was killed in the electric chair. Only two of the seven Tennessee inmates executed since 2018, when Tennessee ended its execution pause that had been in place since 2009, were killed by lethal injection.

Smith refused to choose between lethal injection and chair, so lethal injection became the default method.

Tennessee uses three drugs to kill inmates: midazolam to make them unconscious; vecuroniumbromide to paralyze them; and potassium chloride to stop their hearts beating.

Officials claim that midazolam makes an inmate unconscious and unable to feel pain . Expert witnesses for inmates claim that the drugs could cause sensations such as drowning, suffocation, and chemical burning, while making it impossible for inmates to move or call out.

Oklahoma's last October saw an inmate die from the same three-drug lethal injection after he received midazolam. Since then, Oklahoma has performed three lethal injections without any similar reactions.

Smith's lawyers in Tennessee argued against the firing squad. They pointed to South Carolina allowing firing squad executions last month, one of only four states that allow this execution method, according the Death Penalty Information Center.

It is difficult to know exactly how certain states have execution drugs in their possession, and others are struggling to obtain them. This is often due to state exemptions from public records.

The Tennessee Department of Correction spokesperson refused to reveal the source of execution drugs. These drugs can be made or compounded. The Associated Press obtained documents about the drugs through a public records request. They were heavily redacted to remove references to the state's source.

In South Carolina, an official in corrections stated in a recent affidavit (PDF) that the state had contacted manufacturers and compounding pharmacies but they refused to supply the drugs.

Although South Carolina failed to pass any additional secrecy regarding lethal injection suppliers in South Carolina, Idaho did so recently.

Republican Governor Brad Little signed legislation prohibiting officials from disclosing -- even in court orders -- where execution drugs were obtained.


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