On January 3, 2012, theTennessean released an article regarding the state's entire stock of a key lethal
injection drug. Since the state is completely out of the critical component
of a series of three drugs used humanely kill death row inmates, the state
searches for an alternative source.
The problem is that the entire stock of a key lethal injection drug has
been confiscated by the federal government as questions arise whether
the drug was legally obtained. As of right now, Tennessee isn't sure
exactly how or when it will execute inmates in the future.
According to the Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick
Schofield, the state's lethal injection protocol is a top priority
and he said he is pursuing alternative drugs. He preferred not to disclose
which options he is considering; however, other states have used an alternative
drug that is commonly used in animal euthanasia. "I don't have
a time frame, but it's a matter of urgency for us."
The Tennessean reports there are eighty-four people on Tennessee's
death row, and 67 of them have been there for longer than 10 years. For
those opposing the death penalty, the shortage of the 2011 anesthetic
sodium thiopental is an answer to their prayers.
Death penalty advocates believe justice should be carried out, and they
believe the state should consider doing what other states such as Ohio
have done, use an alternative drug such as pentobarbital. It's the
Tennessee Attorney General's Office who requests execution dates,
it says it's waiting for orders to move forward. Spokeswoman Sharon
Curtis-Flair said, "We will file the appropriate motions to set executions
as soon as the executive branch indicates its readiness to proceed with
executions." Meanwhile, Governor Bill Haslam's office says the
department of correction continues to explore its options.
Tennessee's death penalty protocol remains unchanged since 1998 when
the legislature made lethal injections the only method for executing inmates.
Under the current system, inmates are strapped to a gurney and injected
with three separate chemicals, the first being sodium thiopental, which
puts them to sleep; the second being pancuronium bromide, which stops
the breathing; and third, potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
The first drug is extremely important for it renders the process painless;
however, this is the drug in which the sole supplier has stopped supplying,
leading to shortages across the nation. When states such as Tennessee
attempted to obtain the drug from overseas, it led to a federal lawsuit
and a seizure of those drugs. In the interim, some states have turned
towards pentobarbital as an alternative, which is typically used to euthanize animals.
We're still not certain which direction Tennessee will go as far as
lethal injection, but until the state comes to a decision it's anticipated
that executions will be put on hold in the meantime. If you are facing
homicide charges for murder, or another serious violent felony, we urge
you to contact a Morristown
criminal defense attorney from
The Bowlin Law Firm at once to discuss how we would tailor your defense. Your future is at
stake, let us help you get started on defending your rights and your personal freedom.