Oscar Franklin Smith execution delayed, first Tennessee inmate set to be executed since 2020

Errors in preparation have delayed his execution
Oscar smith.png
Posted at 11:38 AM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 09:56:47-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/AP) — Tennessee was set this week to execute its first inmate since the start of the coronavirus pandemic after the Supreme Court of the United States denied a stay of execution for Oscar Franklin Smith. However, Smith will not be executed until June at least.

Smith was scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday night for the 1989 killings of his estranged wife and her teenage sons, but an oversight in preparation for the lethal injection caused a delay. The execution method is the state’s preferred means.

“The governor did the right thing by stopping what was sure to be the torture of our client. A thorough investigation should immediately take place by an independent entity," said Kelley Henry, Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender.

A delayed execution must wait at least seven days after an executive reprieve reaches its end. Governor Bill Lee issued an executive reprieve in this case that will be effective until June 1. So, Smith will not be executed until at least June 8.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Amy Harwell who represents Smith said she was with her client when he received the news.

"Mr. Smith's body visibly just sort of slumped with relief, he and his spiritual adviser gave thanks to God," she said.

Smith has been on death row since the 90s. His legal team made numerous attempts to stop the execution, however, a federal judge denied his most recent motion. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday rejected a clemency filing by Smith's attorneys.

She is also asking for a full independent investigation to happen to determine what went wrong.

"We have already sent a demand to the department of corrections that the preserve all of the drugs, all of the packaging, all of the inserts, all of the tubing anything that was used or was going to be used in tonight's execution," she said.

She said this also speaks to a bigger problem regarding the state's current three-drug lethal injection cocktail.

"The first drug of the cocktail the Midazolam does not prevent pain. It does not actually of surgical anesthesia. And so we were already deeply troubled by this process," Harwell said.

She said that state should not resume executions until an investigation is complete and the state can assure this won't happen again.

His defense team argued that new DNA evidence proves he's innocent, saying the state is "poised to execute an innocent man." They're referring to a new analysis of a palm print on the murder weapon they say no longer points to it belonging to Smith, even though investigators also found gunshot and stab wounds on the victims.

Judge Aleta Trauger said there's no indication the new evidence would have changed Smith's guilty verdict or death sentence, which initially allowed the execution to go forward.

Smith chose a double bacon cheeseburger, deep-dish apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream as his last meal. He ate these at 4:12 Thursday evening, before learning of the execution's delay.

The intention to lethally inject Smith put Tennessee on a divergent path from South Carolina, which is preparing for a rare U.S. firing squad execution that has at least been temporarily delayed in court. South Carolina has been unable to obtain lethal injection drugs for years and the last U.S. firing squad execution was in 2010.