Gov. Phil Bredesen said he stands by Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol despite the Tennessee Supreme Court delaying four executions while lower courts determine the constitutionality of an extra step recently added to the procedure.
He says he respects the high court’s decision to allow trial courts 90 days to test whether a new step added during the lethal injection is constitutionally sound, but believes the state is already operating within all confines of the law.
“I’m confident that what we’re doing is humane and sensible and in the main stream, it is certainly what a great many other states do, and that in the end we’ll find that what we’re doing is consistent with the Constitution and the law and that Tennessee will be able to go ahead,” said the governor after a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony on Capitol Hill.
The 90-day delay is the latest legal twist in the execution of Stephen Michael West, a man convicted of torturing, raping and killing a woman and her teenage daughter in 1986.
Monday’s ruling was the latest twist in a recent string of legal battles over the constitutionality of the lethal injection execution practices the state uses. Critics of the method argue that individuals may still be partly conscious after the drugs designed to paralyze breathing and stop the heart are administered, thus causing the inmate undue suffering prior to dying.