The family of Byron Looper says the state is hiding something.
Looper died mysteriously in prison this week, and the family doesn't believe he died from an enlarged heart as an autopsy reported.
In fact, they have ordered a second examination they believe will show that Looper was killed.
"The way the state of Tennessee is acting looks very suspicious in this whole matter," said attorney McCracken Poston, who is representing Looper's family.
Looper was 15 years into a life sentence when he died suddenly Wednesday in an isolation cell in Morgan County. He was convicted for killing his political rival, state Sen. Tommy Burks.
His family said they didn't even know it happened until they heard it on TV.
"Byron's family only heard about this through the media while the TBI was falling all over themselves to get to the senator's family, the current senator," said Poston.
Poston said a number of things in this case don't add up, beginning with inmate Looper's alleged misbehavior.
"The assistant warden indicated there was a discussion going on about Byron going back to general population and that he 'touched the arm of the counselor,' and was taken down and put in an isolation cell," said Poston. "Now all of us are familiar with what can happen during a takedown. There can be positional asphyxia. There can be injuries to the head or brain."
The attorney said sources have told him there was clearly a commotion, a cry out and apparent head injury was noted. Yet, there was a delay of at least an hour to get a nurse to see Looper.
"Now why would they send her an hour later?," said Poston. "I don't understand unless they wanted him to die."
The notorious face in this case may now discover a problem even lawmakers say is growing.
There is no longer a prison oversight arm of the legislature. It was dropped to save money two years ago. Yet the state's own statistics show violence behind bars in Tennessee is unquestionably up with no one to question the record keeping.
"When nobody is overseeing what you're doing, you can get away with anything," state Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville, said in an October interview. "You can make your own reports. You can write up what you want to write up. There's no accountability."
The Looper family attorney has promised a second autopsy within 24 hours. He is also pushing to obtain video he is sure exists and could yield more information.
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