U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeals of nine TN death row inmates; one execution set for Aug. 9

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

The Tennessee Supreme Court set an execution date of August 9, 2018, for Billy Ray Irick, who was convicted of the 1985 murder and rape of Paula Kay Dyer, age 7, in Knox County, Tennessee. The Court received notice from the State Attorney General on January 11, 2018, that the United States Supreme Court had denied the defendant’s appeal challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol. Under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 12.4(E), the Court, on its own, may set a new execution date when a case with a previous execution date had stays or reprieves lifted or dissolved. Mr. Irick has had multiple previous execution dates.

The Court also received notice on January 11, 2018, that eight other capital cases had certiorari denied by the United States Supreme Court. Those cases are: State v. Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman, State v. Lee Hall a/k/a Leroy Hall, Jr., State v. Donnie Johnson, State v. David Earl Miller, State v. Nicholas Todd Sutton, State v. Stephen Michael West, State v. Charles Walton Wright, and State v. Edmund Zagorski. In all of these cases, previous execution dates have been set and the defendants have completed the three-tier appeals process: direct appeal, post-conviction relief, and federal habeas corpus. As of now, no new execution date has been set in these cases.

Currently, there are two other Tennessee cases with execution dates set: State v. James Hawkins and State v. Sedrick Clayton. In both of those cases, the defendants’ respective convictions were affirmed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2017, ending only their direct appeals. Although execution dates were set as a result of those decisions, both defendants still have time remaining to file a petition for post-conviction relief. In addition, they later may file for federal habeas corpus relief.

Further, The Tennessean reports that Hawkins, a 41-year-old Shelby County man convicted in 2011 of killing the mother of his three children, is scheduled to die May 9, according to the Department of Correction, and Clayton, a 34-year-old Shelby County man convicted of a triple murder in 2014, is scheduled to die Nov. 28.

Neysa Taylor, a spokeswoman for the department, said Thursday the state “has the drugs necessary to carry out execution by lethal injection.”

…The order for Irick sets the stage for what could be the first execution in Tennessee in nearly a decade… In that time, advocates and inmates tried unsuccessfully to win a legal battle arguing against the use of lethal injection and the death penalty. 

In March 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against dozens of death row inmates who’d filed suit against the practice.

Note: The Supreme Court order resetting Irick’s execution date is available  HERE. Additional information on pending capital cases (basically  a status list, including death row inmates who have died of natural causes while awaiting execution) is HERE.



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