Botched execution in Oklahoma raising concerns in Tennessee - WSMV Channel 4

Botched execution in Oklahoma raising concerns in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

When it comes to the death penalty, there are strong opinions on both sides.

A botched execution in Oklahoma is sparking serious concerns, and now, Tennessee's own method is raising questions.

Recently, opponents of the death penalty in Tennessee sent an open letter to the governor asking him to look at problems with the state's death penalty system.

Turns out, the laws on the books in Tennessee are similar to those in Oklahoma.

"The mechanic process of administrating the lethal injection, I understand, is the same as it has always been, so there certainly is the prospect that we could have an identical disaster in Tennessee as they had in this other state," said prominent defense attorney David Raybin.

An Oklahoma death row inmate died of a massive heart attack on Tuesday only after prison officials stopped giving him lethal injection drugs due to complications.

Raybin says the botched execution in Oklahoma is bound to have effects in Tennessee.

"If an execution causes torment beyond death itself, then a court could very easily say no, this particular means of execution is illegal and violates the United States Constitution," he said.

Officials in Oklahoma used a potent cocktail of three drugs. In Oklahoma, like in Tennessee, the deadly mixture is cloaked in secrecy so that not even death row inmates know where the drugs come from.

"We have the situation, the structural situation, that's the perfect storm that's exactly like the situation they had in Oklahoma of a secrecy law and compounding pharmacies and the public not having the right to know," said Vanderbilt Associate Professor Dr. Lisa Guenther.

Tennessee has 10 prisoners scheduled to be executed, but Guenther is part of a group that asked the governor to put a hold on executions and look at the system.

Lawmakers recently passed a law that allows the state to use the electric chair if the drugs needed are not available. There is no word if Gov. Bill Haslam plans to sign that legislation into law.

The last inmate executed in the state was Cecil Johnson on Dec. 2, 2009. There are 76 inmates on Tennessee's death row, including one woman.

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