NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee executed Stephen West on Thursday – marking the state’s fifth execution within the last year.
Stephen West was executed by means of electric chair for a double murder near Knoxville more than 20 years ago. He was pronounced dead at 7:27 p.m.
In the press conference that followed, a TDOC official read a statement from Eddie Campbell, the nephew of the late Jack Romines. He was married to Wanda Romines and the father of 15-year-old Sheila Romines, both kidnapped and killed in 1986.
Witnesses also described the execution and a very emotional West before being electrocuted.
Lori Tucker with WATE in Knoxville described West's last words.
"He said 'In the beginning God created man.' and then he started sobbing, at one point almost uncontrollably, and then he said 'and Jesus wept. That's all,'" she said.
Steven Hale with the Nashville Scene reiterated West's emotional state.
"I would emphasize that it was very difficult to watch a man weeping in the electric chair. He was beside himself and that was evident," said Hale.
West’s attorney says originally, he was supposed to die by lethal injection. However, lawyers say a last-minute decision change to the electric chair may have been a delay strategy that didn't work.
The Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for West Thursday afternoon, hours before the execution. Governor Bill Lee denied him clemency earlier this week.
At age 23, he was convicted in the 1986 kidnapping Wanda and Sheila Romines, the raping Sheila, and murder of both. West's 17-year-old co-defendant, Ronnie Martin, confessed to carrying out both killings but was ineligible to receive the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the crimes.
Before Wednesday's choice of the electric chair, Stephen West had refused to select how he would die – meaning the state was planning to use the default method of lethal injection.
Earlier this year, a last-minute decision to use the electric chair in another case , delayed the execution by ten days.
West selected a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and French fries as his last meal.
An attorney for West was not present at the press conference to answer questions from reporters. However, his legal team released the following statement:
"We are deeply disappointed that the state of Tennessee has gone forward with the execution of a man whom the state had diagnosed with severe mental illness, a man of deep faith who has made a positive impact on those around him for decades, and a man who by overwhelming evidence did not commit these murders but has nevertheless taken personal responsibility for his involvement in these crimes. We don't believe the decisions of the courts and ultimately the governor reflects the forgiving and merciful citizens of this state."