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Legal analyst says Tennessee inmate could spend years on death row before execution

A Knox County panel convicted Wiggins last week of murdering a Dickson County deputy. On Thursday, they decided he should die.

DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. — A Knox County jury Thursday decided a Middle Tennessee man should be put to death for the killing in 2018 of a Dickson County deputy. 

The panel reached its decision about Steven Wiggins about 4 p.m. local time Thursday after mulling the case in the afternoon.

Now, legal analysts say that Wiggins could spend years on death row awaiting execution. One expert said that it could take up to 20 years as judges examine his case and ensure that Wiggins does not unjustly face death. 

According to experts, the judges in the appellate process still have plenty of cases to look at before getting to his.

First, the Tennessee Supreme Court will automatically review his conviction. Then, Wiggins will have the chance to say if he thinks his defense team did not do a proper job, which would then be reviewed. He could also try to get relief from federal courts.

The process is meant to make sure that both the conviction and the sentence were correct rulings.

"If it takes a long time to do it, then so be it," said Jim Todd, a legal analyst. "If people don't like that it takes a long time, then your remedy is with the legislature to give us more courts and more judges."

Wiggins is Tennessee's 48th death row inmate after he was given the death penalty on Aug. 12.