Updated at 12:15 p.m.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is ramping up his efforts to execute death row inmates. His office filed requests to schedule nine more executions in the coming months.
The court motions were sent last Friday, the same day Slatery appealed a recent decision to overturn one Nashville man’s death sentence, but they had not announced publicly until today.
Kelley Henry of the the Federal Public Defender’s Office said she was surprised by what she described as “mass executions.” Her office represents seven of the nine death row inmates.
“Each case is unique and represents a number of fundamental constitutional problems,” she said in an email, citing the potential role issues like racism and mental illness could play in the defendants’ cases. Henry added that her office would oppose the Attorney General’s requests.
The nine motions, filed with the Supreme Court of Tennessee, come on the heels of five executions in the course of a year at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Those executions followed a nearly decade-long lapse, largely caused by the decision of some pharmaceutical companies not to supply the drugs needed for lethal injection.
Four more executions are already on the Tennessee Department of Correction’s calendar. The soonest is Lee Hall’s execution, scheduled for Dec. 5. In 2020, Nicholas Sutton is slated to be executed in February, and Henry Jones and Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman are scheduled for April.
However, Abdur’Rahman’s fate is still uncertain. In an unprecedented deal last month, Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk offered to overturn his 1987 death sentence in exchange for life imprisonment, if Abdur’Rahman would waive his right to future appeals. Funk cited allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination during trial. Both Abdur’Rahman and a judge accepted the offer.
But last week, the attorney general’s office challenged the deal, arguing that neither Funk nor the judge had the authority to overturn Abdur’Rahman’s death sentence.
On that same day, Slatery filed motions to set execution dates for the following men on death row:
- Byron Black, who was convicted in 1987 of murdering Angela Clay and her two daughters, Latoya and Lakeisha Clay, in Davidson County.
- Tony V. Carruthers, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1994 killings of Marcellos Anderson, Delois Anderson and Frederick Tucker, in Shelby County.
- Henry Eugene Hodges, who pled guilty in Davidson County to the 1990 first-degree premeditated murder and especially aggravated robbery of Ronald Bassett.
- Donald Ray Middlebrooks, who was convicted in 1987 in Davidson County for the torture-murder of Kerrick Majors.
- Harold Wayne Nichols, who pled guilty in Hamilton County to the 1988 first-degree murder of Karen Pulley.
- Farris Morris, who was convicted in 1997 of aggravated rape, along with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder for the killings of Erica Hurd and James Ragland, in Madison County.
- Pervis Tyrone Payne, who was convicted in Shelby County for the 1987 first-degree murders of Charisse Christopher and her daughter Lacie Christopher, along with the assault with intent to commit murder of her son, Nicholas Christopher.
- Oscar Franklin Smith, who was convicted in Davidson County for the 1989 murders of his estranged wife, Judy Lynn Smith, and her two children from another marriage, Chad and Jason Burnett.
- Gary Wayne Sutton, who, along with a co-defendant, was convicted in Blount County for the 1992 first-degree murder of Tommy Griffin.
Samantha Max is a
Report for America corps member.