NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday postponed the execution of the state’s oldest death row inmate, citing an “oversight” in preparations.
Oscar Franklin Smith, 72, was set to become the first inmate put to death in Tennessee since the pandemic, but Lee granted a temporary reprieve from the lethal injection the death row inmate was scheduled to receive Thursday, WSMV-TV reported.
“Due to an oversight in preparation for lethal injection, the scheduled execution of Oscar Smith will not move forward tonight,” Lee said in a statement. “I am granting a temporary reprieve while we address Tennessee Department of Correction protocol. Further details will be released when they are available.”
Lee’s decision is the first time he has intervened in a capital case, The Tennessean reported. The move is similar to a 10-day reprieve issued by then-Gov. Bill Haslam in 2018 to properly prepare the execution of Edmund Zagorski by the electric chair, according to the newspaper.
“The governor did the right thing by stopping what was sure to be the torture of our client,” Kelley Henry, a supervisory assistant federal public defender, told WTVF-TV. “A thorough investigation should immediately take place by an independent entity.”
Thursday’s announcement did not indicate when the reprieve would end, The Tennessean reported. The Tennessee Supreme Court will select Smith’s next execution date, according to the newspaper.
Smith was convicted of the 1989 killings of his estranged wife, Judith Lynn Robirds Smith, and her two sons from a previous marriage, Chad Burnett and Jason Burnett, WSMV reported. Smith was sentenced to death for all three slayings, according to the television station.
Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court had denied a last-hour bid by Smith’s attorneys seeking to block the execution, according to The Associated Press.
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