The governor of Tennessee has put a hold on all of the state’s scheduled executions for the year and announced an investigation into the state’s lethal injection process.

Background: Last week, Governor Bill Lee granted a last-minute delay to death row inmate Oscar Franklin Smith who was scheduled to be executed on April 21.

Smith was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing and shooting his wife, Judith Smith, and her two sons, Jason, and Chad Burnett, in 1989.

Governor Lee and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from Smith prior to his originally-scheduled execution.

The state said there had been an oversight in the lethal injection process, leading to the formula only being tested for lethality and sterility, but not for endotoxins.


What Happened: On Monday, Gov. Lee ordered a third-party review of Tennessee’s lethal injection process and retained former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton to conduct the investigation.

What Gov. Lee Says: “I review each death penalty case and believe it is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes,” Lee said in a statement. “However, the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Correction to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.” (per Fox News)

Context: Smith’s execution was one of five scheduled to take place this year. Death row inmates in the state have the option to request execution by the electric chair rather than lethal injection, which is the default. Three of four executions in Tennessee have been carried out via electric chair since 2019, according to the governor’s office.

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