12 August 2018 :
Billy Ray Irick, 59, White, was executed. It was the first execution in the state since 2009. Over sharp dissents by justices of the U.S. and Tennessee Supreme Courts and lingering questions about the prisoner's history of mental illness and the efficacy of the state's lethal-injection protocol, Billy Ray Irick was executed. Irick was sentenced to death in Knox County on December 3, 1986 on charges of raping and murdering Paula Dyer, a 7-year-old girl on April 15, 1985. In the days leading up to the execution, the Tennessee Supreme Court and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam rejected Irick's request for a stay or clemency. The state Supreme Court ruled on August 6 that Irick had failed to show his challenge to the execution protocol (as for the use of Midazolam) was likely to succeed on appeal, a requirement for the court to allow the lawsuit to proceed. Judge Sharon Lee dissented from the majority decision, writing, "The harm to Mr. Irick of an unconstitutional execution is irreparable. Yet the harm to the State from briefly delaying the execution until after appellate review is minimal, if any." Governor Bill Haslam declined to exercise his clemency power in Irick's case, saying that the judicial review of the case was "extremely thorough." The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor strongly dissented from that denial, writing, "In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the Court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the State of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody, while shrouding his suffering behind a veneer of paralysis. I cannot in good conscience join in this 'rush to execute' without first seeking every assurance that our precedent permits such a result. If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience, then we have stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism." Federal public defender Kelley Henry said Irick exhibited signs of pulmonary edema during an execution that took more than twenty minutes. Henry said media witnesses had reported that “Mr. Irick ‘gulped for an extended period of time,’ was ‘choking,’ ‘gasping,’ ‘coughing,’ and that ‘his stomach was moving up and down.’ Witnesses described movement, including movement of the head, after the consciousness check. This means that the second and third drugs were administered even though Mr. Irick was not unconscious,” Henry said. Media reports indicated that the second and third drugs, a paralytic agent and potassium chloride, would cause a pain similar to drowning and being burned alive. Irick was the first person executed in Tennessee this year, the 7th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 2000, the 15th person executed this year in the USA, and the n. 1480 since the United States resumed executions in 1977.