Governor to give details of canceled execution next week | Health, Medicine and Fitness

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI – Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will release more details Monday about why he abruptly called off the execution of Oscar Smith, delaying his previous plan to reveal the reasons this week, confirmed Republican spokesman.

Casey Black said in an email Tuesday that the governor’s office “will release more information and action steps.” Lee had previously promised reporters to provide new information this week. However, the governor’s office pointed to the impending adjournment of the GOP-controlled general. Assembly as a reason for delaying disclosure of execution details.

“I think it’s fair for people who are stretched to cover the latest important bits of the legislature and try to cover this issue with attention to detail,” communications director Laine Arnold said in an email from monitoring.

Last week, Lee released a statement saying there had been an “oversight in the preparation for the lethal injection” as he granted the 72-year-old Smith a temporary reprieve. A day later, he said the reprieve was necessary due to a “technical oversight”, without giving further explanation.

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The governor’s office and the Department of Correction have since declined to answer direct questions about the planned execution, including whether the execution drugs were compounded and, if so, whether a pharmacist had those drugs tested for independently for “potency, sterility, and endotoxin” as listed in state lethal injection protocols. The protocol allows the state to use compounded or manufactured drugs.

The stay will be in effect until June 1. In the meantime, lawyers and death penalty watchdog groups have called for an independent investigation into the case. To date, the state has declined to say whether it will.

Smith was convicted of the 1989 murders of his estranged wife and two teenage sons. He is the oldest inmate on Tennessee’s death row.

He was to be injected with three drugs in a maximum security prison in Nashville. In Tennessee, authorities use midazolam, a sedative to render the inmate unconscious; vecuronium bromide, to paralyze the prisoner; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart.

Lethal injection drugs have been difficult for some states to obtain, as many pharmacies and manufacturers refuse to supply the drugs for executions. This has forced some states to explore other methods of execution, including South Carolina which is moving forward with plans for a firing squad.

In Tennessee, some inmates can choose between lethal injection or the electric chair.

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