Autopsy Allowed on Executed Inmate Who Objected on Religious Grounds

A federal judge on Wednesday held that the State of Tennessee may conduct an autopsy on prisoner Philip Workman, who was executed on May 9, 2007 for the 1981 shooting death of a Memphis, Tennessee police officer. Workman previously objected to the autopsy based on his religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist. Workman was the first inmate executed under the state’s revised lethal injection procedures.

The U.S. Middle District of Tennessee Chief District Judge Todd Campbell ruled that the state has a “compelling interest in assessing the effects of the lethal injection protocol that has been the subject of widespread constitutional challenge in recent years.” The court held that the state medical examiner needs to perform the autopsy to verify the success of the new procedures, which include more specific guidelines for the administration of lethal injections but still use the controversial three-drug cocktail as a painkiller.  

Workman’s attorneys, who have contended the state’s use of lethal injection causes unconstitutional pain and suffering, have until May 24, 2007 to appeal.