In May 2022, Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee imposed an official moratorium on the death penalty while an independent review of the lethal injection protocol is carried out.
This announcement followed the last-minute cancellation of Oscar Smith’s execution in Tennessee after officials failed to test its drugs for bacterial endotoxins. The state intended to use some compounded medicines alongside manufactured Vecuronium Bromide likely sourced in violation of distribution controls.
Governor Lee appointed former US Attorney Ed Stanton to conduct the review and investigate the following: what led to testing the lethal injection chemicals for only potency and sterility but not endotoxins ahead of the April 21 execution; clarity around the lethal injection process manual, which was last updated in 2018, and adherence to testing policies since the update; Tennessee Department of Correction staffing considerations.
Pharmaceutical companies may have played a driving role in pausing executions in Tennessee by proactively investigating possible diversions and communicating their opposition to state leaders.