NewsNational

Tennessee governor won't release records on error, before execution was abruptly halted

The execution of Oscar Smith was halted last month
Bill Lee
Posted at 6:21 PM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 18:21:31-04

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has refused to release records that could illuminate his decision to abruptly halt the execution of Oscar Smith last month.

Lee has said the execution drugs for Smith weren't properly tested. He has placed a temporary moratorium on executions. In response to a records request seeking more information, the Republican governor's office cited attorney-client privilege and "deliberative process privilege" as reasons for not releasing some records.

The deliberative process exemption isn't in state law. A 2004 appeals court decision found that certain documents could remain secret if officials deemed them part of their decision-making process.

72-year-old Smith was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing and shooting his estranged wife, Judith Smith, and her teenage sons, Jason and Chad Burnett, in Nashville, at their home, on Oct. 1, 1989, the Associated Press reported.

His execution was to be the first of five scheduled in 2022, the most of any state other than Texas, which also scheduled five executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.