Today's Tennessean reports, "TN Supreme Court delays Oct. 7 execution of Irick," by Brian Haas.
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday postponed the Oct. 7 execution of Billy Ray Irick.
The court accepted Irick’s appeal to delay his execution in light of an ongoing lawsuit filed by 11 death row inmates challenging the secrecy of the state’s lethal injection procedures and the constitutionality of its backup plan, the electric chair.
Part of the holdup is that attorneys are awaiting a decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals over whether the state must turn over the identities of its execution team.
The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Irick, saying that the state must await the appeals court ruling before proceeding. But the court said that once the ruling is in, “this matter should be expedited to eliminate any further unnecessary delays.” The court also put time limits on any further appeals in the case and ordered an “expedited schedule for resolution” of the ongoing lawsuit, which is being heard in Davidson County Chancery Court.
"Tennessee Supreme Court postpones execution over lethal injection challenge," is the AP report by Travis Loller, via the Columbia Missourian.
A death row inmate has been granted a reprieve from an Oct. 7 execution date.
On Thursday, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Billy Ray Irick's execution should be put on hold while a challenge to the state's lethal injection and electrocution procedures works its way through the courts.
The lawsuit claims that the state has no way to ensure the purity and potency of the lethal injection drug pentobarbital. It also claims that use of the electric chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Tennessee changed the law earlier this year to allow the state to execute a prisoner by electrocution in the event that prison officials are unable to obtain pentobarbital. It is the only state that allows use of the electric chair against an inmate's will.
Also from Tennesse, "Supreme Court Orders New Trial In Bartlett Double Murder Case," is the opinion summary from the state's high court. It's also available from the Chattanoogan.
The Tennessee Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for Henry Lee Jones, who was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in Shelby County and sentenced to death. Because the trial court committed prejudicial error by admitting evidence that Jones had committed a separate murder in Florida, the Court reversed the convictions but ruled that the state may again seek the death penalty in the new trial.
In May 2009, Jones was tried for the murders of Clarence and Lillian James. Jones’s accomplice, Tevarus Young, who was charged with facilitation of the murders and was called as a witness for the state, testified that he was present during the murders on August 22, 2003 and provided details of the crimes. The trial court, however, erroneously allowed the State to present evidence of the subsequent murder of Carlos Perez in a motel room in Melbourne, Fla.
While acknowledging the rule that evidence of other crimes by a defendant is not generally admissible in a trial, a majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals had earlier held that the Perez murder qualified as a “signature crime,” a narrow exception to the general rule. Judge Camille McMullen dissented from the Court of Criminal Appeals decision, observing that the Perez murder did not meet the strict requirements for the exception to apply.
In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court pointed out the significant differences between the James murders in Tennessee and the murder in Florida, held that the evidence should not have been admitted, and concluded that a new trial was necessary.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee v. Jones is available in Adobe .pdf format.
One other media note from Tennessee: Nashville Scene reports, "Brian Haas Is Leaving The Tennessean." The alt-weekly notes that the reporter will become the Nashville Fire Department's Public Information Officer. I've greatly appreciated his professional, reliable reporting over the years.
Earlier coverage from Tennessee begins at the link.