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Tennessee’s Catholic bishops urge governor to halt upcoming executions

Bishops J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Richard F. Stika of Knoxville and Martin D. Holley of Memphis have written to Gov. Bill Haslam urging him to ‘use your authority as governor to put an end to the fast-track executions planned’ in the state of Tennessee in the forthcoming months.

‘It is within your power to establish your legacy as a governor of Tennessee who did not preside over an execution on your watch,’ the state’s three Catholic bishops wrote.

The last person to be put to death by lethal injection in Tennessee was Cecil Johnson in 2009, when Phil Bredesen was governor. The state has carried out a total of six executions since 1976, five of those during Bredesen’s tenure.

In Tennessee, the governor has sole authority to grant clemency to death-row inmates.

There are currently 62 men and one woman on Tennessee’s death row.

The next man scheduled to be executed by the state is Billy Ray Irick on 9th August. Irick, 59, who has a history of serious mental illness, was convicted in 1986 of the rape and murder of a seven-year-old Knox County girl named Paula Dyer, and has been on death row for more than three decades.

Picture: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is pictured in a 2016 photo. The state’s Catholic bishops, Bishops J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Richard F. Stika of Knoxville and Martin D. Holley of Memphis, have written to Haslam urging him to ‘use your authority as governor to put an end to the fast-track executions planned’ in the state in the upcoming months. (CNS photo/Mike Theiler, pool via Reuters).