The Tennessee Department of Corrections will not say whether it has the chemical required for executions via lethal drugs. Inmate’s attorneys challenging the state’s protocol on lethal injection and electrocution are saying that the Department does not have the drugs on hand, and had expected to use a court hearing scheduled for last week to prove this, but were unable to after the hearing was canceled.
The hearing came about when the state filed a motion asking Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman to stop any court proceedings related to electrocutions. Inmate’s attorneys used the hearings planned on the issue as an opportunity to challenge the state’s protocol and question the Department of Correction’s drug supply. The state later withdrew its request for a hearing and asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to intervene.
Attorneys had subpoenaed supervisors of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution – where the execution chamber and death-row inmates are housed – to provide proof of the Department’s drug supply. They had expected Tony Parker and Charles Carpenter to testify that the Department of Corrections does not have the drugs on hand.
Questions over the Tennessee Department of Correction’s drug supply come in light of growing national opposition to lethal injections. Tennessee attorneys believe the State’s protocols on lethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Several groups across the nation appear to be following suit.
The leaders of American Pharmacists Association (APA) – the largest group of pharmacists – are expected to take a final vote on Monday over whether or not to oppose pharmacist participation in executions. The policy under consideration stipulates that "such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of health care."
In a similar vein, the American Medical Association, American Board of Anesthesiologists, American Nurses Association, and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians have all spoken out and discouraged their members from participating in executions, subsequently putting a strain on prison facilities’ drug supplies.
"It's certainly clear that it has become more difficult for states to find the drugs that their protocols say they are supposed to use," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization that opposes the death penalty. "What the response to that will be is unclear."
Thee Tennessee Department of Corrections have said that they are still able to carry out the executions, but have stopped short of answering any questions regarding their drug supply.