NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee announced Monday all previously scheduled executions in 2022 will be paused amid plans to launch a third-party review of the lethal injection testing oversight that resulted in a temporary reprieve for death row inmate Oscar Franklin Smith.

“I review each death penalty case and believe it is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes,” said Lee. “However, the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Correction to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.”

Questions surrounding the lethal injection testing preparation for the April 21 execution resulted in a temporary reprieve by the governor just before Smith’s execution was scheduled to take place.

According to a release, Tennessee will retain former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton to conduct an independent review of the following:

  • Circumstances that led to testing the lethal injection chemicals for only potency and sterility but not endotoxins preparing for the April 21 execution
  • Clarity of the lethal injection process manual that was last updated in 2018, and adherence to testing policies since the update
  • TDOC staffing considerations

“An investigation by a respected third-party will ensure any operational failures at TDOC are thoroughly addressed,” said Lee. “We will pause scheduled executions through the end of 2022 in order to allow for the review and corrective action to be put in place.”

Smith’s April 21 execution was set to be the first execution since February 2020 due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and one of five executions scheduled to take place this year. The Tennessee Supreme Court will determine rescheduled dates for the 2022 executions.

Attorney Keeley Henry, who represents inmate Oscar Smith, released a statement Monday, which reads:

“Governor Lee’s decision to pause executions pending an independent review of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol shows great leadership. The use of compounded drugs in the context of lethal injection is fraught with risk. The failure to test for endotoxins is a violation of the protocol. Governor Lee did the right thing by stopping executions because of this breach.”

Kelley Henry

Since 2019, three of four executions have been carried out by electric chair. Death row inmates may choose to be executed by electric chair rather than lethal injection, and lethal injection is the default execution method in Tennessee.

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This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.