The state of Tennessee plans to execute 10 death row inmates over the next two years after changing the drug protocol to be used in lethal injections, officials said Wednesday.
The state is scheduled to execute the condemned prisoners between April 22, 2014, and Nov. 17, 2015, the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts confirmed. Three executions are scheduled this year and seven in 2015.
Gov. Bill Haslam, noting that three execution orders were handed down Friday by the state Supreme Court, told The Tennessean Wednesday that the decision to seek the executions didn't go through him. But he said he agrees with it.
"The death penalty has been approved by the state," he said. "It's been our policy. When I ran, I got asked that question, and I said I will follow what the juries decide."
State officials asked the Tennessee Supreme Court in October for execution dates for 10 inmates, the highest number of condemned people the state has ever sought to kill at one time. The court has since ordered execution dates for nine of those men. Another inmate, Nickolus Johnson, whose execution was sought separately from the other 10, is scheduled to die April 22.
Dates have not yet been set for Lee Hall, the other man in the October group, or Donald Wayne Strouth, for whom the state requested an execution date in December.
Kelley Henry, who supervises capital punishment defense cases with the Federal Public Defender's Office in Nashville, said it was unfortunate that so many death row inmates were being grouped together. Henry and other attorneys have asked a Davidson County judge to halt the executions over questions about the drug the state now plans to use.
"Each and every one of these cases has a story that is an example of how the death penalty system in Tennessee is broken," she said Wednesday. "They each have different stories of ineffective counsel, of evidence that was suppressed by the state, stories of trauma and mental abuse that were never presented to a jury or a judge."
The death penalty here and across the nation has faced a barrage of legal challenges and drug shortages as pharmaceutical companies have pulled commonly used lethal injection drugs from the shelves. Tennessee found itself without sodium thiopental in 2011, putting all executions on hold until it could come up with a new drug, which it finally did in September.