Local News

Tennessee Death Penalty Ruling Could Impact N.C.

Posted September 20, 2007

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— A federal court ruling in a Tennessee death penalty case could add to the dispute over North Carolina's execution protocol.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Wednesday that Tennessee's lethal injection procedures are cruel and unusual punishment, delaying an execution planned for next week.

The new protocol, released in April, "presents a substantial risk of unnecessary pain" and violates death-row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison's constitutional protections under the Eighth Amendment, Trauger said. The protocol doesn't ensure that inmates are properly anesthetized before the lethal injection is administered, which could "result in a terrifying, excruciating death," she said.

Harbison was scheduled to be executed Sept. 26 for beating an elderly woman to death during a burglary in 1983.

Tennessee uses the same cocktail of drugs in executions as North Carolina: sodium pentathol is used to render the inmate unconscious. Pavulon then paralyzes the body, and potassium chloride kills the inmate by stopping the heart.

North Carolina Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. last month ordered state officials to review the execution protocol, saying lawyers for inmates weren't allowed to provide input and ask questions about whether the procedures adequately protected inmates against cruel and unusual punishment.

"I noticed it's the same thing we're dealing with in North Carolina," Morrison said of the Tennessee ruling. "I didn't think it verified or ensured that the person is unconscious before they poison him or put him to death."

North Carolina's death penalty has been on hold since January, when the state Medical Board adopted a policy that threatened disciplinary action against any physician who participated in an execution.

A judge ruled that the policy conflicted with state law requiring the presence of a physician at executions, and he said the Council of State would have to resolve the matter. The Council of State, a group of nine elected officials, including Gov. Mike Easley, then revised the execution protocol and increased the role of physicians in executions.

The Council of State is expected to take another look at the protocol next month. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, who sits on the council, said she wants the dispute resolved soon so executions can resume.

"If we're going to have the death penalty, (these rulings require) that we do it the right way. If not, I'm not sure the courts are going to let anybody be executed," Morrison said.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Harrison Bergeron Sep 21, 2007


    Me being wrongfully accused, convicted and executed for a capital crime, while highly unlikely, is a risk I am willing to take to ensure swift, final justice for those who need it.

    In the same vein, I risk killing myself getting into my car and driving every single day, but I do it, since the benefits out-way the probably of risk. I also risk walking outside during a thunderstorm, knowing I could be innocently struck down by lightening.

    The sad part is that I know that swift death would not be a deterrent, since those who commit savage murder most often don't have the impulse control to consider the results of their actions in the first place.

    I support a swift, cheap death penalty to save money.

  • rc4nc Sep 21, 2007

    I'm for hanging them before sundown. There is no deterent value left in the current system.

  • TruthBKnown Sep 21, 2007

    "When will we stop killing people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

    This is so idiotic. You make it sound bad. Here is my amended sentence of yours to illustrate why the death penalty is RIGHT:

    "When will we stop killing GUILTY people who kill (SLAUGHTER) INNOCENT people to show that killing (SLAUGHTERING) INNOCENT people is wrong?"

    We won't. And shouldn't.

  • thepeopleschamp Sep 21, 2007

    starfckerboy, you've never had someone very close to you murdered have you? It will change your mind, it did mine.

    Witnesses recant all the time even for minor cases. Nothing you say will change my mind and nothing I can say will change yours. I guess I empathize better with victims than murderers.

  • tbajr Sep 21, 2007

    While politics runs it usual course, use the firing squad in the

  • blondie2416_01 Sep 21, 2007

    You have GOT to be kidding me!!! Is it being forgotten what was done to the VICTIMS of these prisoners when they decided to take their life?? The justice system is truly not an "eye for an eye". Our justice system is slowly bowing down to these murderers and letting them run the show....ridiculous!

  • then who cares Sep 20, 2007

    There's a story breaking that will be all over the news for a while that shows a lady being repeatedly tasered. Even after she was handcuffed. She is suffering a lot more pain than the condemned will.

    If the person is actually guilty then the discomfort should not be a factor for not carrying out the execution. If we are going to have a death penalty it has to be failsafe! Period!!

  • tobias Sep 20, 2007

    I say continue with the same method of lethal injection but allow the condemned inmate the option of coming up with his own method of a more painless execution. Bet most would opt for the lethal injection method in the end.

  • TheAdmiral Sep 20, 2007

    I love it when people have no compassion for the death penalty, but will sit there and say that "They are in a better place" when someone has a problem that is fatally painful that they are no longer able to see or talk.

    Hypocracy is all around.

    I did not think we had a problem shooting people in the head or the heart - since they are skeered out of their wits before they pass on, make it quick and painless - have them ride with a drunk driver.

  • bjacksonatlkg Sep 20, 2007

    What about the pain and suffering the victims that were murdered went through. Has anyone thougt of that? I think our goverment needs to take that into consideration. It seems that the criminals have more rights than the victims.