Tennessee carries out first execution in nearly a decade
Inmate “gulped for an extended period of time” and was “choking,” “gasping”
11 August 2018
Tennessee executed Billy Ray Irick on Thursday in the first execution in the state in nearly a decade. Irick, 59, was convicted and sentenced to death for the brutal 1985 rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer in Knoxville. He spent more than three decades on death row.
Irick’s lethal injection was allowed to proceed at the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville after both the Tennessee and US Supreme Courts denying his request for a stay. Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, did not exercise his power to grant Irick clemency.
Irick’s attorneys had argued both that their client should not be put to death because he suffered from severe mental illness, and that one of the drugs to be used in his lethal injection could cause severe pain. There is evidence that Irick did indeed suffer a torturous death.
Journalists witnessing the execution reported that the blinds between the witness room and the death chamber were opened at 7:26 p.m. local time. Asked if he had any final words, Irick at first said “No,” and then said, “I just want to say I’m really sorry and that, that’s it.” The lethal injection drugs then began to flow.
A minute later, the Associated Press (AP) reported, his eyes closed and snoring and heavy breathing could be heard. At 7:34 p.m. there was “coughing, huffing and deep breaths,” and an attendant called out to him and grabbed his shoulder to check for consciousness.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), federal public defender Kelley Henry said Irick exhibited signs of pulmonary edema (fluid filling the lungs) during the execution,…