TENNESSEE (USA): STATE HAS TO TURN OVER IDENTITIES OF EXECUTIONERS
September 29, 2014: Tennessee has to turn over the identities of executioners to attorneys representing 11 death row inmates challenging the state's death penalty, according to an appeals ruling.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that state secrecy laws surrounding lethal injection procedures don't apply to court cases, which are instead guided by discovery rules. Its ruling requires the state to turn over the identities of its execution team to attorneys for the inmates, under seal.
Kelley Henry, a federal public defender who represents some of the death row inmates, lauded the ruling and said it would protect both the inmates and the state. "This approach is measured and reasonable," she said. "It protects the rights of my clients as well as those of the defendants."
The 11 inmates filed suit in November in Davidson County Chancery Court challenging the secrecy surrounding Tennessee's lethal injection procedures and the constitutionality of its backup plan, the electric chair. They argued that there's no way to ensure the state's death penalty is constitutional if they don't have access to where the state obtains its lethal injection drugs, the makeup of the chemical cocktail used to execute inmates and the makeup of the execution team. The other issues have yet to be decided by the lower court.
The state argued that they shouldn't have to turn over the identities of the execution team because of a law passed in 2013 making all details of its lethal injection procedures secret.
Chancery Court Judge Claudia Bonnyman previously ruled that the state had to turn over details about the execution team, which the state appealed. The Tennessee attorney general's office couldn't be reached for comment. It's unclear if the office will appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The ruling doesn't mean that the public will get a look at the state's execution team.
Henry said the execution team, along with the physician and pharmacist, will only be given to the death row inmates' lawyers and experts. She said the attorneys won't even be allowed to reveal that information to the inmates.
The ongoing lawsuit has delayed at least 1 execution, that of Billy Ray Irick, who was scheduled to die Oct. 7.
On Sept. 25, the execution of Irick has been stayed by the state supreme court to allow more time for appeal regarding lethal injection protocol. He has not yet been given a new execution date. 10 other death row inmates have been scheduled to die through 2016. (Source: The Tennessean, 29/09/2014)