lethal injections

A county judge has upheld Tennessee's method of execution by lethal injection. The ruling is the latest in the state's years-old death penalty fight.

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled the protocol was constitutional, saying a group of death row inmates and their attorneys failed to show that the use of a single injection of the drug pentobarbital, compounded especially for the state, violates the Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Tennessee's governor has signed a bill that would allow the state to use the electric chair if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam confirmed to The Associated Press that the legislation had been signed after passing the state Senate by a 23-3 vote and the House by a 68-13 margin.

The AP reports:

In 1977, death row inmate Gary Mark Gilmore chose to be executed by a firing squad. Gilmore was strapped to a chair at the Utah State Prison, and five officers shot him.

The media circus that ensued prompted a group of lawmakers in nearby Oklahoma to wonder if there might be a better way to handle executions. They approached Dr. Jay Chapman, the state medical examiner at the time, who proposed using three drugs, based loosely on anesthesia procedures at the time: one drug to knock out the inmates, one to relax or paralyze them, and a final drug that would stop their hearts.


Kentucky is one step closer to resuming executions. The state Justice Cabinet Thursday sent its proposed changes to the state's lethal injection process to the legislature. A state judge more than a year ago ordered Kentucky to halt executions until it switches from using three drugs to just one drug. The proposal makes some changes based on input from a public hearing in September.


Critics of Kentucky's proposed new death penalty method have asked officials to make multiple changes to how executions are carried out now that the state is switching to a one- or two-drug lethal injection. During a hearing Tuesday in Frankfort, public defenders, private attorneys and anti-death penalty activists said the rules Kentucky wants to put in place have multiple problems, including that condemned inmates aren't allowed access to their attorneys on the day of execution.