Judge Rules Tennessee's Lethal Injection Rules Are Constitutional

Posted at 9:47 PM, Aug 26, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A court ruling Wednesday could help shape the future of capital punishment in Tennessee.

A Davidson Chancery Court judge decided it is constitutional for the state to use lethal injection to kill death row inmates.

In the decision, Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman said the state’s protocol does not create risk of cruel and unusual harm, which has been prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. She cited multiple prior court cases that said capital punishment is constitutional, and the fact that the drug is effectively used in other states.

Tennessee’s protocol called for the use of a single lethal injection drug, known as compounded Pentobarbital.

The Tennessee Supreme Court put all executions on hold back in April pending the final ruling of this case, but it has been unclear what the future holds for individuals on death row because of future appeals.

“This is just the first step,” said Nick Leonardo, NewsChannel5 Legal Analyst. “ There will be several layers of appeals after that. We will have to get the final word from the Tennessee Supreme Court, and then there could be federal appeals.”

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slattery released a statement on the ruling:

“Today the Court ruled that Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol is constitutional. In doing so, every challenge raised by the plaintiffs was rejected. The State of Tennessee has worked very hard to make sure the protocol used is reliable and humane, today the Court recognized that. While much of the focus of this case has been on the inmates, we should not forget the victims and the heartache suffered by their families. My hope is that they may find some comfort in today’s decision.”

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Correction also released a statement on the ruling:

"The Tennessee Department of Correction stands ready to carry out the order of the court."

Tennessee currently has 67 inmates on death row, and the last execution was in 2009.