A Tennessee judge yesterday upheld the state's lethal injection process for executing inmates. Davidson County Chancery Judge Claudia Bonnyman said from the bench that the plaintiffs, 33 death row inmates, didn't prove that the one-drug method led to a painful and lingering death. She also said the plaintiffs didn't show during a lengthy trial that there have been problems in states where the method has been used. "Plaintiffs were not able to carry their burdens ... on any of their claims," Bonnyman said. Tennessee has not executed an inmate for more than five years because of legal challenges and problems in obtaining lethal injection drugs. The state's protocol calls for the use of pentobarbital mixed to order by a pharmacist, because the only commercial producer of the drug has placed restrictions on its distribution to prevent it from being used in executions.
Tennessee lawmakers had moved from a three-drug lethal injection method to a one-drug method and to reinstate the electric chair as a backup. Both changes brought challenges, and all previously scheduled executions were put on hold. Although Tennessee has yet to carry out an execution using compounded pentobarbital, state attorney Scott Sutherland has said that Texas, Ohio, and Georgia have had more than 30 successful and painless executions with that drug. AG Herbert Slatery said in a statement he hoped the families of victims would be comforted by the ruling. "The State of Tennessee has worked very hard to make sure the protocol used is reliable and humane, [and] today the court recognized that," the statement said. "While much of the focus of this case has been on the inmates, we should not forget the victims and the heartache suffered by their families." The plaintiffs' attorney says they plan to appeal. (Read more Tennessee stories.)