Bredesen: Tennessee executions on hold until next summer
Tennessee isn’t likely to execute any prisoners on death row until next summer, Gov. Phil Bredesen said Thursday.
Bredesen, a Democrat, said the state will wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case of two Kentucky death row inmates who argue the method amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Bredesen said he doesn't expect the high court to rule until May or June.
"And that's going to give a huge amount of guidance to governors, and to federal judges and district attorneys, and to an awful lot of people involved in this process,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled in September that Tennessee's method of lethal injection is unconstitutional and ordered the state not to execute a death row inmate using that method. Attorney General Bob Cooper has said he plans to appeal, but Bredesen noted that appellate judges are likely to wait until the Supreme Court rules before deciding how to proceed.
"From my perspective everything is essentially on hold until the Supreme Court rules," Bredesen said.
The governor said he won't try to adjust the state's execution protocols to try to adhere to Trauger's ruling on the state's 3-drug cocktail for lethal injections.
"It would be inappropriate of us to try to charge ahead and try to figure out how to execute everyone who is on death row," he said.
Bredesen in February placed a 90-day moratorium on executions because of several glaring problems with the state’s execution guidelines, including conflicting instructions that mixed lethal injection instructions with those for the electric chair.
Trauger ruled that state Correction Commissioner George Little adopted a new protocol despite knowing the risk of excessive pain for inmates remained.
The administration also did not give enough consideration to a recommendation by experts to discard the standard 3-drug lethal injection cocktail in favor of a single drug method, Trauger said.
Bredesen said he disagreed with Trauger's ruling. The panel of experts was there to advise, but not to decide on the final makeup of the protocol, he said.
"I ask for advice all the time from experts and don't take it," he said. "That's what people in executive positions do."
"I never imagine that by bringing in an expert you're abdicating your judgment to whatever that expert says," he said.