On October 4, 2006, a death-sentenced inmate of the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Tennessee Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The State of ...
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On October 4, 2006, a death-sentenced inmate of the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Tennessee Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The State of Tennessee allows death-sentenced prisoners who committed their crimes prior to 1999 to choose their method of execution - lethal injection or the electric chair. Plaintiff complained to the Court that both methods of execution used in Tennessee were unconstitutional because they would torture the executed prisoner.
Plaintiff objected to the use of the state's electric chair (which was nicknamed "Old Sparky") during his execution by arguing that it had been modified and would not work properly because it would not deliver an adequate current. He quoted the manufacturer, who responded to the news of the chair's modifications by saying that the changes would make it an "instrument of torture" that is "tantamount to somebody being burned at the stake." Plaintiff also referred to allegedly botched executions involving electric chairs in other states.
Plaintiff also objected to the defendants' lethal injection protocol, arguing that it led to an unconstitutional risk of torture because it 1) did not specify the required credentials of the medical personnel involved, 2) involved the use of an anesthetic that would work only for a very short duration, therefore allowing the plaintiff to feel pain, 3) involved the use of a paralytic agent that would render the condemned unable to express the pain that he was feeling and unable to breathe, and 4) involved a dose of potassium chloride that was high enough to cause extreme pain but not high enough to arrest the heart and cause death. Plaintiff alleged that this combination of chemicals would render him conscious, paralyzed, and in extreme pain while he suffocated to death.
On October 10, 2006, the defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint and motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing that Plaintiff had not shown any likelihood of success on the merits and that he had brought the complaint only to delay his execution. Nine days later, the District Court (Judge Todd J. Campbell) denied Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and granted the motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff was unlikely to succeed at trial and that he had brought the case only to delay the execution. Plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted motions to stay and consolidate the case with a similar death-row case, Harbison v. Little (07-6225). In that case, the District Court ruled that the lethal injection method was unconstitutional, and the defendants appealed. These two consolidated cases were stayed until the United States Supreme Court decided a Kentucky case, Baze v. Rees
, CJ-KY-0002. In Baze, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that the Kentucky legal injection method, which was similar to the method used in Tennessee, was constitutional. Following that decision, the parties in this case set an oral argument date in December 5, 2013. However, on December 3, 2013, the Court of Appeals granted a joint motion to dismiss the appeals as moot, following the implementation of a new lethal injection protocol by the state of Tennessee.Justin Benson - 03/21/2012
Maurice Youkanna - 07/28/2014