In a state that has only executed six death row inmates since 1960, Tennessee appears ready to enter a period in which executions become more common.
The Tennessean reports the State Attorney General’s office recently petitioned the Tennessee Supreme Court to schedule ten executions, an unprecedented number. One of those requests has been granted; Billy Ray Irick is scheduled to die January 15 for the 1985 rape and murder of a seven year-old Knoxville girl.
Another inmate, Nickolus Johnson, has an execution date scheduled for April 22. Johnson was convicted for the 2004 murder of a Bristol police officer. The request for Johnson’s date was made separately from the other ten.
Experts suggest the new influx of requests may be the by-product of a shortage of sodium thiopental, a drug used by Tennessee and most other states until its sole manufacturer, Illinois-based Hospira, Inc., stopped producing it in 2011. In September, Tennessee approved a new method of lethal injection that excludes the use of sodium thiopental. The switch allows the Department of Correction to move ahead with executions that have been on-hold for the last two years.