Local I-Team: A look at the history of executions in Tennessee

Local I-Team

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Convicted killer Don Johnson is scheduled to be executed Thursday night in Nashville.

The 68-year-old Memphis man is one of almost 60 men and women sitting on Tennessee’s death row. Johnson is the first of several inmates who are scheduled to be executed in the Volunteer state over the next 12 months.

While many states have slowed down or delayed setting execution dates because of concerns about lethal injection drugs, Tennessee plans to move ahead, with six set at this time.

Johnson is scheduled to die at 7:00 p.m. Thursday evening. Johnson suffocated his wife Connie in Memphis more than 30 years ago.

Despite pleas from supporters that Johnson has found God, become a minister, and turned his life around, Governor Bill Lee denied Johnsons plea for clemency

Amy Howe with Tennesseans for Alternatives for the Death Penalty is against Johnson and other inmates being executed.

“The way the system operates, it’s just clearly broken,” said Howe.

Capital punishment has existed in Tennessee off and on throughout the state’s history. While early records are not available, more than 125 people were executed in the state between 1916 and 1960. Since 2000, Tennessee has put nine people to death. Don Johnson will be the 10th.

“Before 2000, last execution was 1960,” said Memphis attorney Robbert Hutton.

Hutton has defended several inmates on death row. He says controversy over lethal injection drugs has reduced the number of inmates being executed nationally.

In Tennessee, former Governor Phil Bredesen halted all executions in 2007 over concerns with how the drugs was administered. It was reinstituted later that year with changes to protocol.

Bredesen also commuted two death sentences in 2010.

Until last year, it had been almost a decade since an execution took place in Tennessee.

While many states have decreased the number of scheduled executions, Tennessee is being called “the rocket docket.” Johnson is the next in line.

“We’ve really revved it up in the last few years in a way I think is very disturbing, particularly when the country is moving towards abolition,” said Howe.

Because of concerns with the lethal injection drugs, the last two Tennessee inmates executed have opted for the electric chair. Others have filed a lawsuit asking for a firing squad.

Johnson will be given lethal injection.

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