Tennessee to Execute 10, Keep Details Secret

Law allows it to keep executioner, where drugs came from under wraps
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2014 4:11 PM CDT
State Seeks Record Executions, All in Secret
In this Nov. 2005 file photo, public information director Larry Greene is shown in the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Tennessee officials plan to execute a record number of death row inmates over the next two years, all under a cloak of secrecy. The state late last year asked its Supreme Court for permission to execute at least a dozen convicts—its biggest request ever—and intends to use a law passed last year that would keep the details under wraps, Raw Story reports. Among those details that wouldn't be revealed: the executioner, the drug cocktail used, or where it was sourced from. The Tennessean reports 10 have execution dates set, between April 2014 and November 2015.

Why seek so many executions now (since 1960, Tennessee has seen only six executions)? Likely because the cases backed up over death-penalty legal challenges and drug shortages, analysts say. "I think what happened is, is the pipe has been cleared," said a pro-death penalty advocate. Specifically, the state halted executions when it ran out of sodium thiopental in 2011, and has now acquired a contentious lethal-injection drug called pentobarbital. As for the secrecy law, other states (like Missouri, Georgia, and Oklahoma) have approved similar legislation to shield the details about their lethal-injection drugs. Some Tennessee inmate attorneys are suing to stop the executions over doubts about the drug, and the Times Free Press notes that similar challenges have delayed Tennessee executions before, sometimes for years. (More execution drugs stories.)

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