State requests execution dates be set in capital cases

CNN Newsource

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  The state of Tennessee submitted a motion on Thursday asking the courts to set the execution dates for eight death-row inmates before June 2018.

“The State, through its Department of Correction, is required by law to carry out death sentences by lethal injection,” the document said. “But its ability to do so after June l, 2018, is uncertain due to ongoing difficulty in obtaining the necessary lethal injection chemicals.”

According to the paperwork, Donnie Johnson, Stephen Michael West, Edmund Zagorski, Leroy Hall, Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman, Charles Walton Wright, Nicholas Todd Sutton and David Earl Miller have each been sitting on death row for years, stalling the executions through the appeals process.

As of February 15, all of them have exhausted the standard three-tier appeals process, the state said, and to no avail.

The previous execution attempts were called off pending ongoing litigation. One of the aspects it focused on was the drug pentobarbital, which was one of the drugs previously used by the state of Tennessee during the process. They claimed it was insufficient in preventing pain and suffering.

While the courts have dismissed their arguments, the Department of Corrections has since changed its lethal injection protocol to include midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride – a combination that has been approved by several courts including the United States Supreme Court.

“There is no legal basis for denying the State’s request to carry out their criminal sentences,” the state concluded.

It’s unclear when a court will respond to the request.