Gov. Lee: Execution report complete, will release later

Dec 15, 2022, 8:19 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2022, 10:27 am

FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers a question while taking part in a panel discussion during a ...

FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers a question while taking part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference on Nov. 15, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Lee announced Friday, Dec. 16, that the independent review into the state's lethal injection procedure has been completed, but refused to immediately release the report's findings. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Friday that the independent review into the state’s lethal injection procedure has been completed, but he refused to immediately release the findings.

Instead, Lee promised that the entire review will be released before the end of the year, while denying that he was attempting to bury any potentially negative findings over the holidays.

“I think it’s important that I get a chance to read the report and that we internalize it and absorb the information,” Lee told reporters.

Lee, a Republican, paused all executions in May after acknowledging that the state had failed to ensure its lethal injection drugs were properly tested. The oversight forced Lee to abruptly halt the execution of Oscar Smith an hour before he was to die in April. The governor’s office then refused to release records that could have illuminated his decision, citing attorney-client privilege and the disputed “deliberative process privilege.”

Lee appointed former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton to review circumstances that led to the failure. Stanton was tasked with reviewing the clarity of the state’s lethal injection manual and looking at Tennessee Department of Correction staffing.

Documents obtained through a public records request later showed that at least two people knew the night before that the lethal injection drugs the state planned to use hadn’t undergone some required testing.

The records showed experts — who were not named — say testing was not performed for so-called endotoxins, which usually come from bacteria. Such testing is considered vital because it could be an indication of problems with the manufacture of the drugs.

On Friday, Lee maintained his administration was being transparent with the report even if they weren’t immediately disclosing it to the public. The governor added that he had not yet finished reading the document but confirmed that the state plans to take action.

“We want everyone to know we have it,” he said. “We want to deliver it and we’ll have it delivered before the end of the year.”

Tennessee’s independent review comes as many of the executions carried out this year were “botched” or highly problematic. The Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center has described 2022 as the “Year of the Botched Execution” as seven of the 20 execution attempts in the U.S. were visibly problematic or took an inordinate amount of time. This has led to some states, like Tennessee, to put executions on hold so processes and protocols could be reviewed.

“The release of the report will be the first step in setting the record straight,” said Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry. “We need careful and considered evaluation of this report. Personnel changes and protocol changes are sorely needed.”

Tennessee uses a three-drug series to put inmates to death: midazolam, a sedative to render the inmate unconscious; vecuronium bromide, to paralyze the inmate; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart.

Officials have said midazolam renders an inmate unconscious and unable to feel pain. Expert witnesses for inmates, however, say the drugs can cause sensations of drowning, suffocation and chemical burning while leaving inmates unable to move or call out. The assessment has led to more inmates choosing the electric chair over lethal injection, which is an option for some in Tennessee.

Lethal injection drugs have been a challenge to obtain for some states as many pharmacies and manufacturers refuse to supply the medications for executions. Most recently in South Carolina, officials decided to forge ahead with plans for a firing squad after it struggled to find the necessary drugs. That execution has since been delayed as well.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

3 days ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

4 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

5 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

5 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

7 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

7 days ago

Gov. Lee: Execution report complete, will release later