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Case Name Abdur'rahman v. Parker CJ-TN-0011
Docket / Court 18-183-II ( State Court )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
Abu Ali Abdur'rahman and a group of more than 30 other Tennessee death row inmates filed this action against the state's Commissioner of Corrections in Davidson County Chancery Court on February 20, 2018. The complaint alleged that Tennessee adopted a new lethal injection protocol that permitted ... read more >
Abu Ali Abdur'rahman and a group of more than 30 other Tennessee death row inmates filed this action against the state's Commissioner of Corrections in Davidson County Chancery Court on February 20, 2018. The complaint alleged that Tennessee adopted a new lethal injection protocol that permitted the use of two procedures. One procedure involved only the chemical pentobarbital, while the other procedure involved a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. The plaintiffs alleged that the latter three-drug procedure would result in plaintiffs experiencing terror, pain, and suffocation during execution in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, as well as the equivalent provisions of the Tennessee state constitution. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief declaring the second procedure unconstitutional, and also sought declaratory relief alleviating them of the need to prove that an alternative execution method was available. The plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and the Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee, and the case was assigned to Chancellor Ellen Hobbes Lyle.

On March 29, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, followed by reply and response briefing from both parties, and a motion to compel discovery by the plaintiffs. On May 2, 2018, Chancellor Hobbes held a hearing regarding the motions to dismiss and compel discovery. According to the docket, on May 7, 2018, the court issued a order granting in part and denying in part both motions. The plaintiffs then proceeded with discovery, including depositions of the defendants and others.

On July 9, 2018, following additional discovery, Chancellor Hobbes held a bench trial, and on July 26 issued an order dismissing the suit with prejudice. The plaintiffs immediately appealed. On August 13, 2018, a "reach down" order was issued by the state supreme court, removing the matter the Tennessee Supreme Court. On October 8, 2018, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the trial court dismissal of the suit. 558 S.W.3d 606. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins, the court found that Tennessee's protocol did "not rise to the level of punishments that are categorically forbidden by the Eighth Amendment." The court also concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show that an alternative method of execution was available to the defendants.

On October 11, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiff's petition for certiorari, over the dissent of Justices Sotomayor. 139 S.Ct. 1533. Justice Sotomayor criticized the alternative-method requirement as a framework through which to analyze death penalty challenges. The case is now closed.

Nathaniel Flack - 02/28/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Supremacy Clause
Death Penalty
Lethal Injection - Chemicals Used
Lethal Injection - General
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Torture
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Commissioner of Correction
Plaintiff Description Tennessee death row inmates.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 02/20/2018
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
Court Docket(s)
State Trial Court
08/10/2018
M2018-01385-SC-RDO-CV
CJ-TN-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
General Documents
State Trial Court
02/20/2018
Complaint for Declaratory Judgment
CJ-TN-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Supreme Court
10/08/2018
Opinion (558 S.W.3d 606)
CJ-TN-0011-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Supreme Court
05/13/2019
Opinion (139 S.Ct. 1533)
CJ-TN-0011-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Bivins, Jeffrey S. Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0003
Clark, Cornelia A. Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0003
Kirby, Holly M. (State Appellate Court) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0003
Lee, Sharon G. (State Supreme Court, State Appellate Court) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0003
Lyle, Ellen Hobbs Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-9000
Page, Roger A. Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0003
Sotomayor, Sonia (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hansen Chavis, Dana C (Tennessee) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0001 | CJ-TN-0011-9000
Henry , Kelley J. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0001 | CJ-TN-0011-9000
MacLean, Bradley Alan (Tennessee) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0001
Morris, Kathleen (Tennessee) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0001 | CJ-TN-0011-9000
Rieder, J William (Tennessee) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0001
Shiles, Carl Gene Jr (Tennessee) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-0001 | CJ-TN-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Smith, Jennifer L. (Washington) show/hide docs
CJ-TN-0011-9000

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