The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee held Wednesday that Tennessee’s new execution protocols are considered cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
In April, the Tenneseee Department of Corrections reviewed the process of administering executions and developed new procedures after Tennessee’s Governor Phil Bredesen issued a 90-day moratorium on executions in February due to inconsistent instructions for lethal injection and electric chair executions. Tennessee executed the first person under the newly accepted procedures in May.
The protocols provide specific lethal injection guidelines but retain the three-drug cocktail, which has been purported as failing to prevent excessive pain and suffering. The court ruled that the new procedures do not mandate proper anesthesia prior to lethal injection. As a result, the court delayed the execution of Edward Harbison, who was set to be executed next week for killing an elderly woman during a burglary.