Tennessee executes Billy Ray Irick for murder, rape of 7-year-old

Billy Ray Irick currently on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville Tenn

Billy Ray Irick currently on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville Tenn

Tennessee carried out the execution Thursday of a man condemned for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl, marking the first time the state has applied the death penalty in almost a decade.

Irick was living with Paula Dyer's mother and stepfather in 1985 when he attacked the girl.

At first he appeared to sigh and say "no". Then he started snoring and two minutes later he turned dark purple.

The group, Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP), organized vigils in Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville before Irick was put to death at 8:47 p.m. EDT.

"It's unseemly that Irick would be executed and then the case ultimately gets resolved in his favor", said Durham.

"In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the Court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the State of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody", Sotomayor wrote in her moving dissent Thursday. When an attendant yelled his name and grabbed his shoulder there was no response, and at 7.48pm he was pronounced dead.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan denied a request to stay Irick's execution. But Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a blistering dissent, recounting a recent state court trial of a case brought by 33 death row inmates challenging Tennessee's execution drugs.

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States began using midazolam to replace pentobarbital after European makers of the latter drug halted sales to the United States for use in executions.

It was the first execution in Tennessee since December 2009, when inmate Cecil Johnson received a lethal injection for the killings of three people during a 1980 convenience store robbery in Nashville.

The state Supreme Court denied a stay Monday, saying a lawsuit filed by inmates contesting the execution drugs being used wasn't likely to succeed.

Tennessee is set to execute a man for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl, in what would be the first time the state has applied the death penalty since 2009.

Attorneys for the state have said the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of midazolam in a three-drug series.

"If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience, then we have stopped being a civilised nation and accepted barbarism", she wrote.

Fifty-nine-year-old inmate Billy Ray Irick is scheduled to receive a three-drug injection Thursday evening. Once Irick was dead, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said justice was delayed too long for the little girl killed and her family. We echo the words of Pope Francis, who recently declared as definitive teaching that "in light of the Gospel", the death penalty is unacceptable in all cases "because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes." .

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