The execution of Billy Ray Irick was the first in Tennessee in nearly a decade, and several more death row inmates are scheduled to die later this year.
In January, the Tennessee Supreme Court scheduled an Oct. 11 execution for Edmund George Zagorski, convicted in a double Robertson County killing, and David Earl Miller is set to be executed in December in a South Knoxville killing.
Zagorski, 63, was convicted in 1984 of shooting John Dotson of Hickman County and Jimmy Porter of Dickson and then slitting their throats, after robbing them in April 1983.
Miller was found guilty in the killing of a woman found stabbed and bludgeoned in 1981 on the grounds of a South Knoxville home.
He has been on death row longer than any other inmate in Tennessee.
Both men have exhausted their formal appeals, but both will very likely pursue additional legal attempts to delay or vacate their executions. In fact, litigation continues among 32 inmates over the state's lethal injection method.
Zagorski and Miller are among the inmates who argue the state's lethal injection protocol is flawed. Defense attorneys in other states also are challenging the use of the sedative midazolam in the execution process.
Irick also was a plaintiff, but the state Supreme Court declined this week to halt his execution while the inmates' challenge is pending.
A Davidson County chancellor ruled against the inmates in July.
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle said the inmates did not do enough to show the state neglected to find alternative drugs, or that using the drugs will violate the constitution by torturing the condemned.
The inmates appealed, asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to delay Irick's execution in order for their appeal to proceed. The state's highest court declined, with a majority of justices stating the inmates' chance of winning on appeal was very low.
That likely means Zagorski and Miller also would not receive stays if this legal challenge is still pending at the time they are scheduled to die.
Robert Tines was the last person from East Tennessee to be executed before Irick. He died in the electric chair in 1960. There wasn't another execution in Tennessee for almost four decades.
More about the Knoxville killer
Originally from Ohio, David Miller stopped in Knoxville in late 1979 while hitchhiking, according to records. A minister named Calvin Thomas picked him up. Eventually, they had a sexual relationship that evolved into a paternal friendship.
Miller, 23 at the time, came to live at the minister's South Knoxville home. He came and went as he pleased.
He met Lee Standifer, 23, who became his girlfriend. She lived at the YWCA downtown.
On May 20, 1981, they were seen together at several places in Knoxville, including the Continental Trailways bus station and the downtown library.
They ended up taking a cab back to the minister's house. He wasn't home at the time but was expected back soon.
According to testimony, Miller turned on Standifer after she grabbed him by the arm. He killed her in the minister's hillside home using a fireplace poker. He also stabbed her. Miller dragged her body outside, leaving it in a thicket about 100 feet from the house.
When Thomas came home that night after Wednesday night church, he saw Miller cleaning up the basement and kitchen floors. The minister also saw streams of blood leading from the living room into the dining room and kitchen.
Miller's explanation was that he'd made a mess after getting in a fight that bloodied his nose.
Thomas testified he had had enough and told Miller he'd have to leave. Early the next morning, Thomas drove his houseguest to an exit off westbound Interstate 40 in Knoxville, gave him $20 and wished him luck.
Thomas didn't return to his home until later that night. That's when he spotted a blue T-shirt hanging from a dogwood tree. Nearby was Standifer's body, lying face-up.
Also found on the property was the poker in the living room and a hammer near the body, along with Standifer's jacket, shoes and panties. Police saw a rope around her neck, the means by which he'd dragged her body out of the house.
Defense attorneys argue Miller had a particularly horrific childhood, suffering sexual abuse by his alcoholic mother starting when he was 8 or 9, according to records.
His case has been heard repeatedly in appellate courts.
The Tennessean contributed to this article.