Judge orders phone access for death row inmates' attorneys, won't halt planned execution

Posted at 10:15 PM, Nov 15, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – A Nashville federal judge has ruled that the execution of Tennessee’s next death row inmate, David Earl Miller, may continue, but the Tennessee Department of Correction must provide a telephone for Miller’s attorney-witness before and during the execution.  The order also applies to three other death row inmates who sued the state.

Another Nashville federal judge made a similar ruling for the execution of Edmund Zagorskion November 1, which TDOC eventually complied with.

Judge William Campbell, Jr., who authored Thursday’s decision, declined to delay Miller’s December 6 execution while the judge considers other questions in the inmates’ lawsuit.  

The inmates – Miller along with Nicholas Todd Sutton, Stephen Michael West and Terry Lynn King – are seeking to challenge the constitutionality of both Tennessee’s use of lethal injection and the electric chair, offering alternatives such as a firing squad or drinking fruit juice laced with lethal chemicals.

While Campbell did not rule on those issues Thursday, the denial of a stay of execution suggests the judge believes the inmates are not likely to win their lawsuit.

Miller was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of Lee Standifer, a mentally handicapped woman in Knoxville.

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed the name of the next inmate scheduled to be executed as David Earl Ray.  His name is David Earl Miller.