'Torturous' Execution

PUBLISHED: 9:32 PM 10 Aug 2018
UPDATED: 2:43 AM 12 Aug 2018

Tennessee Executes Convicted Child Murderer As Advocates Claim ‘Pain’

As a man who escaped execution for more than three decades was put to death, some questioned the manner in which he was killed.

Yesterday, Tennessee executed a convicted child murderer and predator, ignoring complaints that the method they were going to use was too cruel.

The state of Tennessee, on Thursday night, carried out its first execution in nearly ten years, and only its seventh execution since 1976, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gregg v. Georgia that capital punishment was constitutional. The man put to death was convicted of a truly horrifying crime less than three weeks before his sixtieth birthday and a few months shy of 32 years after his conviction.

However, some are not happy about the ‘chemical cocktail’ that was used to put Billy Ray Irick to death for his crimes against a little girl he was babysitting, and one member of the Supreme Court even described the method of putting him to death as ‘barbarism’ and “chemically burning at the stake.” Was the method of execution too cruel, as it was referred to as ‘torturously painful,’ even in a state that has previously shown a willingness to put people to death by electrocution?

William ‘Billy’ Ray Irick was convicted on November 1, 1986, for one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated rape concerning what he did to Paula Dyer, a seven-year-old girl who had been left in his care.

Originally, his execution was set for March 1984, but the execution stayed pending due to various appeals.

On Thursday, the clock ran out for William Ray Irick, after SCOTUS denied a final request to stay his execution, and the governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, refused to intervene and grant clemency, a decision that he announced on August 6.

He was injected with a cocktail of medication and pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m.

The lethal injection he received consisted of a number of substances.

Among them were midazolam, which was used as a sedative during the execution. Irick was also given vecuronium bromide, which is a muscle relaxer. To end his life, the Tennessee Department of Corrections gave him compounded potassium chloride which stopped his heart.

However, the execution came amidst an ongoing debate over the method of killing convicted criminals.

In recent years, experts and advocates for those on death row have repeatedly raised questions over whether midazolam was able to work sufficiently as an anesthetic, however.

According to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the medication may temporarily render the convict unconscious, but the “onset of pain and suffocation” would wake Irick up.

Furthermore, Justice Sotomayor said that it might do so just as paralysis set in when he would no longer be able to tell his executor that the process had gone wrong.

She continued on to say that by refusing to hear the case or grant the convicted and condemned man a stay of execution, the Supreme Court had turned a blind eye to the “proven likelihood” that the TDoC was preparing to inflict “several minutes” of “torturous pain” on a criminal it was putting to death.

She also said that by doing so, the United States will have ceased being a civilized nation and “accepted barbarism.”

In the past, the United States Supreme Court has described potassium chloride as the equivalent of chemically burning someone at the stake.

The execution of the condemned Irick began at 7:26 p.m. Eight minutes later, he was coughing, and otherwise showing signs of breathing issues. Then, he let out a choking or coughing sound, and his face turned dark purple.

Twenty-two minutes after the execution began, he was pronounced dead.

The family of the deceased, Paula Dyer, observed his execution in a separate viewing room. After the execution, they did not give any media interviews, however.

According to the state’s attorney general, Herbert Slatery, justice was delayed for too long in the case of the young Knoxville schoolgirl that he had raped and murdered when she was left in his care.

Slatery also said that he hoped the execution of the convicted criminal brought some degree of closure to the family.

Irick’s lawyer, Gene Shiles, made a last-ditch effort to stop the execution, claiming that the convicted man had suffered from psychosis for most of his life and that he was mentally unwell when he abused and strangled the young girl.

In his last minutes alive, Irick said that he wanted to apologize and to say that he was “really sorry.”

He admitted to the crime decades ago both verbally and in writing. When he was brought before a court on April 17, 1985, and arraigned for the crime he had committed, Irick even tried to confess to the crime and told the judge that he didn’t want a lawyer.

It’s been more than three years since he was sentenced to death. While the method of killing is somewhat questionable, as is how executions are performed continues to be an evolving science in the United States, at least justice was finally done for one young woman who was laid to rest more than 33 years ago.