Governor Lee Suspends Executions To Allow for Independent Review Of Lethal Injection

Image Credit: Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

Governor Bill Lee has halted all executions in the state of Tennessee until the end of 2022 to allow for an independent review of lethal injections.

Lee issued a news release Monday morning with the announcement, after providing a temporary reprieve last month for death row inmate Oscar Franklin Smith because of a “technical oversight” in the lethal injection.

Smith, 72, was scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 21. He was found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder in the October 1, 1989, killings of his estranged wife and her two sons from a previous marriage.

Lee stated Monday afternoon that he was made aware of the issues with the lethal injection medication on the day of the execution.

The governor’s office has refused to answer questions regarding the nature of the oversight but says this halt to executions will provide enough time for an outside party to do a complete review and assessment of the process.

“It’s very important to me that every process is followed,” Lee said. “We need an independent investigation.”

The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton.

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The news release says that Stanton will look at the following:

• What led to testing the lethal injection chemicals for only potency and sterility but not endotoxins, a sign of bacteria in the compound, ahead of the April 21 execution

• Clarity around the lethal injection process manual, which was last updated in 2018, and adherence to testing policies since the update

• TDOC staffing considerations


“I review each death penalty case and believe it is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes,” Lee stated. “However, the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Correction to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.”

Federal public defender Kelley Henry praised Lee’s decision on Monday, calling it “great leadership.”

“The use of compounded drugs in the context of lethal injection is fraught with risk,” Henry said. “The failure to test for endotoxins is a violation of the protocol.”

Smith’s execution was the first of five to take place this year and was the first scheduled since February 2022 due to delays related to COVID-19. 

In 2018, Smith joined dozens of death row inmates in a lawsuit that argued that lethal injection is a form of state-approved torture.

The state of Tennessee uses a series of three drugs for lethal injection: midazolam, a sedative to make the inmate unconscious; vecuronium bromide, a paralytic; and potassium chloride, a medication to stop the heart.

According to officials, inmates are not able to feel pain after they are made unconscious. However, some experts disagree, saying that inmates experience feelings as if they are drowning, suffocating, or burning alive but are unable to move or cry out.

Henry agrees with the experts, “When you look at the science, you will see that even if it works exactly as intended, it is torture.”

She also believes that corrections officers in the state who are made to carry out the procedures are not trained well enough on how to store and prepare the drugs. She also argues that they are among the lowest paid in that career across the nation.

“It’s just too much to ask a human being,” Henry said.

Smith’s reprieve will end on June 1, at which time the state supreme court will assign a new execution date.

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at

One thought on “Governor Lee Suspends Executions To Allow for Independent Review Of Lethal Injection

  • May 3, 2022 at 11:38 pm

    Did the Victims get a Review before they were Murdered?? Gov. does a fairly good job as Gov. but ignorant stuff like this make me think twice. Clean out Death row.


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