Tennessee Execution Manual Found to be Full of Errors
An Associated Press investigation of Tennessee's "Manual for Execution" found that the guide for lethal injections contains conflicting instructions and mixes new procedures with old guidelines for carrying out electrocutions. The manual instructs prison officials to shave the condemned prisoner's head prior to an execution, as if preparing him for electrocution, and orders that they have a fire extinguisher nearby. It also provides instructions for controlling the voltage flowing to an electric chair, and instructs the facility manager to disconnect the electrical cables in the rear of the chair before a doctor checks whether the lethal injection was successful.
Earlier this month, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen suspended executions in the state due to concerns about the state's lethal injection procedures. He called the manual a "cut-and-paste job" that needs significant revision. Correction Commissioner George Little says the manual is the result of human error and poor proofreading.
The manual states that a doctor should slice deeply into an inmate's limb if technicians cannot insert the lethal injection catheter into a vein. This practice has been challenged in other states as cruel and unusual punishment and for violating a doctor's oath to not harm a patient.
Commissioner Little said that the execution teams have relied on "oral tradition" and that routine drills have ensured that lethal injections have been given properly. Gov. Bredesen has asked that the manual revisions be completed by May 2.
(Associated Press, February 10, 2007). See Lethal Injection.