Death penalty argument swirls as TN set to execute convicted murderer, rapist
Tennessee's first execution in almost a decade is now scheduled for next month.
Fifty-nine-year-old Billy Ray Irick is set to die August 9th.
He raped and killed a 7-year-old girl in Knox County 33 years ago.
He is one of 60 people currently on death row.
The Tennessee Department of Correction says it has the necessary drugs to carry out a lethal injection.
Wednesday, a judge in Nevada delayed a lethal injection there because one of the drug's manufacturers says it doesn't want its product used for executions.
Tennessee uses that same drug.
To compare the two sides of the death penalty argument, former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade goes back to the Bible.
"The Bibical reference in Exodus--An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," Wade said. "And then in the new testament for Christians, the turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus."
He says it's an argument that stretches back hundreds of years, long before TN became a state.
"Many of the historical executions would not meet constitutional muster today," Wade said.
514 people have been put to death in Tennessee.
The last was Cecil Johnson in 2009.
Wade says repeated court hearings can delay an execution, and that's happened in this state.
"They begin with the trial and end with the appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court," Wade said. "And then within a year, there's a post conviction review again beginning in the trial courts and going through the court of criminal appeals and ultimately the Supreme Court. And that simply takes some time"
Then, the whole process repeats in the federal court system.
The Death Penalty Information Center says Tennessee would use three drugs to execute Irick: Midazolam, Vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride.
In theory, the first drug makes the person unconscious, the second drug stops their lungs, and the third drug stops their heart.
Wednesday, Midazolam's manufacturer, Alvogen, successfully delayed an execution in Nevada by challenging the use of the drug.
That could happen here.
Wade says if the lethal injection isn't available, the state will use the electric chair.
"Today, absent intervention by the governor or a midnight appeal with some kind of merit to it to the Tennessee Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, Billy Ray Irick will be executed on the date set," Wade said.
The Tennessee Department of Correction says it can't comment on the lethal injection protocol because the trial discussing the injection is going on now.
Read more at WBIR's website.