State holds release of independent report on executions

By: - December 16, 2022 11:30 am
(Photo: Darrin Klimek/Getty Images)

(Photo: Darrin Klimek/Getty Images)

The state has received an independent review of its lethal injection protocol on executions but is refusing to release it to the public until the Governor’s Office assesses it.

Gov. Bill Lee put a hold on executions in May aftering finding out the state failed to follow guidelines on the testing of lethal injection drugs, stopping the execution of death row inmate Oscar Smith one hour before he was to be put to death.

The Governor’s Office released a statement Friday morning saying former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton had completed a third-party review of the state’s lethal injection process and made recommendations to correct the steps the Department of Correction takes.

“To ensure continued transparency for Tennesseans, we will publicly share the report and any additional actions when our internal assessment is complete, no later than Dec. 31,” the governor said in a release.

Asked Friday if he’s not immediately releasing the report because of the possibility it could embarrass the state, Lee said he was still reading the “in-depth” report and would need his legal team to look at it before determining the state’s next steps and releasing it publicly.

Pressed on whether he’s trying to bury the report over the holidays, Lee said it’s important he read the report first so his administration can “internalize” it.

“There will be steps that are necessary to take, and we need to understand the full breadth of the report before we begin to lay out the road map for those next steps. But the report will be entirely public,” he said.

The governor noted it won’t be “buried” because Tennessee residents are interested in the execution process and protocols.

A reprieve on executions remains in place, and once it is lifted, the Tennessee Supreme Court will set new execution dates. None are scheduled for 2023, but that decision lies with the court, the governor said.

Lee said earlier this year an “oversight” took place in preparing lethal injection drugs for Smith’s execution. He further explained that the drugs were not tested independently for potency, sterility and endotoxins, the Associated Press reported.

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.