"(AP) AP Exclusive: Tenn. death penalty manual confuses methods"
By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
Tennessee's procedure manual for executing prisoners is a cut-and-paste jumble of conflicting instructions that mixes new lethal injection instructions with those for the old electric chair.
An Associated Press review of the 100-page "Manual of Execution" reveals that if prison officials were to follow the lethal injection procedures by the letter, they would begin by shaving the condemned prisoner's head _ as if preparing him for electrocution. They would also need a a fire extinguisher nearby.
Gov. Phil Bredesen suspended four executions last week until the...
The manual's minute-by-minute guidelines for lethal injections includes the following instruction: "The Executioner will engage the automatic rheostat." A rheostat controls the voltage flowing to an electric chair.
The guidelines also tell the facility manager to disconnect the electrical cables in the rear of the chair before a doctor checks whether the lethal injection was successful.
The governor's reprieve came after death-row inmate Edward J. Harbison sued the state over its execution procedures in federal court in Nashville _
His lawsuit challenges the kinds of drugs used in lethal injections, the lack of specific guidelines on how to administer them and an absence of required professional standards for the execution team.
Bredesen said the state will evaluate the three-drug cocktail as part of its overhaul of the manual.
The manual also calls for a doctor to perform a "cut-down procedure," or slicing deeply into an inmate's limb if technicians cannot insert the catheter into a vein. That procedure has been challenged in other states as cruel and
The document does not say what should be done if an inmate's veins collapse or if the needle goes through the vein.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in December suspended all executions after Angel Nieves Diaz required a second dose of lethal chemicals and took twice as long as usual to die. The drugs were mistakenly injected into his tissue instead of his veins.
Bredesen called the Florida scenario "a governor's nightmare."
Executions also are halted in Missouri, California and North Carolina because of lethal injection concerns.
The mistakes were added
State law allows a condemned prisoner to choose either lethal injection or electrocution if they committed their crimes before 1999, when the state adopted lethal injection.
Tennessee has not electrocuted a prisoner since 1960.
Little said the mistakes came from failing to proofread the revisions.
"This is human error," Little said. "Bottom line, it's in the typing, but certainly not in the carrying out of the actual executions."
State officials have said there
Donel Campbell, who was corrections commissioner under previous Gov. Don Sundquist, declined to say whether there were problems with execution protocols when the state administered its first lethal injection in 2000.
"I would rather not comment of whether there was or was not," Campbell said.
Once Tennessee's protocols have been reworked and the reprieves have expired, Bredesen said the state Supreme Court will reset execution dates for Harbison, Holton, Michael J. Boyd and Pervis T. Payne.
Harbison, Boyd and Payne have been on death row since the 1980s while Holton was
Bredesen, a Democrat who supports the death penalty, said Tennessee's execution teams have relied on an "oral tradition." Routine drills have ensured that lethal injections have been given properly, he said.
But the state doesn't want to risk the legal ramifications of a spotty execution protocol, and Bredesen said he wants to make sure future executions aren't botched.
The governor has set a May 2 deadline for overhauling the execution protocols and said he will seek to emulate the "best practices" of other death penalty states like Virginia.
"My attitude toward (the death penalty) is that at some level it's a