Nashville—Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman changed her previous position and ruled yesterday that Tennessee’s lethal injection procedures are constitutional.
Chancellor Bonnyman's decision allows prosecutors to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to reset the execution date for death row inmate Stephen Michael West. Lawyers for West will undoubtably appeal Bonnyman's ruling.
In November West’s lawyers argued that inmates are awake and in pain during the execution when given the drugs that paralyze the muscles and stop the heart. The Chancellor agreed then and said the method of execution was unconstitutional because it allowed for "death by suffocation while the prisoner is conscious."
In Tennessee’s method of execution, the first drug, sodium thiopental, renders the inmate unconscious. Next, the inmate is given pancuronium bromide to paralyze the muscles, then potassium chloride to stop the heart causing death.
Apparently the change of mind by Chancellor Bonnyman is due to new procedures adopted that allegedly reduce the chances of a defendant remaining conscious after receiving sodium thiopental.
West received the death penalty for a horrible double murder in Davidson County.