The scheduled execution of Billy Ray Irick Thursday night will be the first during the tenure of outgoing Governor Bill Haslam, who has decided not to intervene in the case.
Haslam says his administration spoke to "scores" of people involved in Irick's case over the last three decades, as well as outside defense lawyers, prosecutors and even psychiatrists.
"If you have enough of those conversations and you ask people for their opinions, it becomes clear a lot of people's opinions are based on how they personally feel about capital punishment. And I just don't think that's my role," he tells WPLN. "This isn't about what Bill Haslam thinks about capital punishment. It's about, did the system go off the rails somewhere?"
When asked for his view on capital punishment, Haslam insists that his personal feelings are irrelevant.
Irick was convicted in 1986 of raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl in Knoxville. The Tennessee Supreme Court has also opted not to step in, but his attorneys have now petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, leaning heavily on a dissenting opinion from Tennessee Justice Sharon Lee. They ask for the U.S. Supreme Court to allow time for appeals in a broader case challenging Tennessee's lethal injection method.