Just one day before Tennessee is scheduled to resume executions after a nine-year hiatus, lawyers and advocates for Billy Ray Irick continue fighting for more time. They’re down to their last hope: that the highest court in the country will step in.
Irick’s lawyers have appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States to issue an emergency stay on his August 9 execution. On Tuesday, Tennessee’s highest court declined to postpone it.
Irick’s execution was pushed back in 2010 and again in 2014. His lawyers want the state to wait again, until a challenge to Tennessee's lethal injection protocol is decided in Tennessee's Court of Appeals. Lawyers for 33 men currently on death row, including Irick, say there is evidence the drug cocktail could lead to excruciating pain — a “cruel and unusual punishment” violating their 8th Amendment rights.
In the recent past, the Supreme Court hasn’t been sympathetic. In 2013, a U.S District Court in Missouri granted a stay of convicted killer Joseph Paul Franklin’s execution due to similar concerns about a chemical in the lethal injection. The following day the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision. Franklin was executed that same day.
Supporters of Irick also claim he was suffering a psychotic episode when he raped and killed a 7-year-old Knoxville girl. But Governor Bill Haslam has refused to intervene, saying the courts have already considered that claim.