Tennessee Law Cloaks Executions In Secrecy

Tennessee Law Cloaks Executions In Secrecy

Tennessee is about to execute 11 people. Officials won’t tell the public what drugs will be used in the executions, or where the drugs will come from. Image @ DailyCensored

Tennessee is determined to kill people, no matter what they have to do in order to make it happen. The state recently requested 11 execution dates. Under a law enacted in 2013, the state will not have to disclose anything about those executions to the public.

The state will provide no information to the public regarding execution methods.

According to a March 23, 2014 article that appeared in the The Tennessean, the state does not want the public to know who will be carrying out the executions, administering a lethal dose of the drug pentobarbital. What’s worse, the state does not want the public to find out where the pentobarbital came from. This is especially important when you consider that there is no company that legally manufactures the drug for human execution.

In 2011, Tennessee’s supply of the execution drug sodium thiopental was confiscated by the federal government, because of questions about how the drug was obtained. The state responded by moving to cloak state sponsored execution methods in a cloud of secrecy.

In April 2013, Tennessee added an exemption to the Open Records Act, excluding any “entity’ directly involved in an execution for disclosure. Corrections officials have also closed off the media’s access to death row inmates, the Tennessean reported on March 23, 2014.

The number of scheduled executions is unprecedented.

The state’s request for execution dates for 11 inmates is one that is unprecedented in its history. Only a total of 6 executions have been carried out in Tennessee since 1960. What’s more, there has not been a single execution in Tennessee for the past 5 years. 

Convicted murderer, Steve Henley, was the last person to be executed in the state of Tennessee. He was convicted of the murders of Fred and Edna Stafford, an elderly couple who lived in Jackson County, TN. Henley was executed in 2009. Henley’s last words were “All I have said ever since this happened, I didn’t kill them. I hope they can rest easier after this procedure is done.” Before he died, Henley added, “I would like to say I hope this gives Fred and Edna’s family some peace. In my experience in life, it won’t. The death of a family member never brings anything but pain. I’m an innocent man.”

According to Indiana’s Clark County prosecutor’s office, which publishes information on executions in the United States,

“Henley was revealed to family members and media witnesses to the execution at 1:17 a.m., already strapped to the death gurney. When he heard the shouts and cries of his family, Henley lifted his head and smiled to them.”

Henley’s execution was carried out by lethal injection of a controversial three drug cocktail.

Experimental execution drugs are unconstitutional.

The United States Constitution protects all citizens from being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. As more and more drug manufacturers ban the use of their products for human executions, states that continue to carry out such primitive methods of punishment are finding themselves forced to resort to extreme measures. Obtaining execution drugs illegally or experimenting with new drugs, the effects of which can only described as cruel and inhumane.

In January 2014, the state of Ohio used an experimental drug cocktail to execute Dennis McGuire. McGuire suffered in agony for 25 minutes, gasping for air, while his own family watched in horror. Prior to his execution, McGuire’s attorneys filed a motion to halt the execution. Medical experts gave testimony, warning of the potential  effects of the experimental drugs.

Tennessee’s secrecy laws violate the rights of the accused, as well as the rights of every taxpaying citizen in the state. The accused has the right to know exactly what drugs will be used to carry out the execution, in order to be able to prepare an appeal.

Taxpayers have every right to know what the government is doing with their money, including what drugs will be used, where those drugs are coming from and how they are going to be administered. To allow these things to be done under the cloak of secrecy is the same as giving the government the green light to do whatever it wants, while citizens look the other way.