UNITED STATES: After an independent report showed that the state’s protocol for putting people to death by lethal injection had major flaws, the Tennessee Prisons Department fired two senior employees.
Official records looked at by the Tennessean newspaper show that Debra Inglis, who was the deputy commissioner and general counsel, and Kelly Young, who was the inspector general, were fired on December 27.
The firings happened a day before Governor Bill Lee’s report was made public. The report showed that many executions had happened recently without enough testing of the drugs used in the lethal injection method of the death penalty.
The investigation showed, in particular, that there was no evidence that Tennessee had ever given a copy of its lethal injection protocol to the pharmacy in charge of testing the drugs before 2018.
The audit also found that the state’s protocol’s three medications—midazolam, which sedates the patient; vecuronium bromide, which paralyses; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart—were not adequately screened for endotoxins, a type of contamination.
Tennessee has resumed executions after a nearly ten-year pause, with the execution of seven criminals since 2018. While two people received lethal injections, five people chose to die in the electric chair.
Following Lee’s admission that the state had not properly followed its lethal injection protocol, the state cancelled the execution of Oscar Smith last April, an hour before it was set to take place.
In accordance with the report issued in December, none of the seven lethal injections administered since 2018—some of which were prepared in case the individual scheduled for execution changed their mind and chose lethal injection over electrocution—were examined for endotoxins.
Experts who have testified on behalf of prisoners say that midazolam makes them feel like they are about to die, scared, drowning, or suffocating.
In some US jurisdictions, most notably Alabama, lethal injection errors have resulted in scandal.
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