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Tennessee puts moratorium on executions

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address in the Capitol building in Nashville on Jan. 31. Associated Press/Photo by Mark Zaleski

Tennessee puts moratorium on executions

Gov. Bill Lee paused executions for a year starting Monday after announcing the state failed to ensure lethal injection drugs were properly tested. Tennessee protocol requires that drugs must be tested for endotoxins, which could cause respiratory distress before death. Last month, Lee stopped Oscar Smith’s execution an hour before it was set to happen, and on Monday he said the drugs for Smith’s execution were not tested for endotoxins. Smith was sentenced to death for killing his wife and her two teenage sons in 1989.

What went wrong? Smith’s lawyer claims the injection drugs were compounded rather than commercially manufactured. He tried to gain access to records but says the state’s confidentiality rules made it difficult. After a public outcry several years ago, many drug manufacturers refused to sell medications for executions, making them difficult to obtain. Lee, a Republican, hired a former U.S. attorney to investigate the drugs meant for Smith and review Tennessee’s lethal injections manual.

Dig deeper: Listen to Bonnie Pritchett’s report on The World and Everything in It podcast on sharing the gospel with death row inmates.

Mary Muncy

Mary Muncy is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. She graduated from World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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