Tennessee Schedules Executions For 2 Death Row Inmates - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Tennessee Schedules Executions For 2 Death Row Inmates

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Billy Ray Irick Billy Ray Irick

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee is set to have its first execution in nearly five years in January and the first using a new single-drug method.

State Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter told The Associated Press on Thursday that 55-year-old Billy R. Irick is scheduled to be executed on January 15.

According to the state Supreme Court clerk's office, the order for the execution was filed Tuesday.

Irick has been on death row since 1986 for the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl.

Another death row inmate, Nickolus Johnson, will be put to death on April 22, TDOC officials said. A Sullivan County jury convicted Johnson of first-degree murder in April 2007 for killing police officer Mark Vance during a 2004 domestic violence call.

Tennessee announced last month that it's switching from a three-drug lethal injection method to using only the sedative pentobarbital to put an inmate to death.

That is due to a widespread shortage of sodium thiopental, a drug used in the three-drug method.

Sodium thiopental puts the prisoner to sleep, with another drug administered to paralyze the prisoner and a third to stop the heart.

Tennessee and many other states have been scrambling to find execution drug alternatives in recent years because manufacturers don't want their products used in executions.

In 2011, Tennessee was among the states that turned over its supplies of sodium thiopental to authorities after concerns arose about how the supply of the drug was imported.

That move came after the company that produced sodium thiopental had bowed to European Union pressure to stop making the drug, creating a shortage. The death penalty has been abolished in all EU nations.

Seven states currently use pentobarbital alone for executions and more are planning to use it, according to Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization that provides information on capital punishment. Other states use it as part of the three-stage execution process.

The last inmate executed by lethal injection in the state was Cecil Johnson, on December 2, 2009.

There are 79 inmates on Tennessee's death row, including one woman.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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