Stephen Michael West, et al. v. Derrick D. Schofield, et al

Stephen Michael West, et al. v. Derrick D. Schofield, et al
M2015-01952-SC-RDM-CV

The Plaintiffs, each convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death, brought this declaratory judgment action seeking to have declared facially unconstitutional the written protocol by which the Tennessee Department of Correction carries out an execution by lethal injection. After a lengthy evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied relief. The Plaintiffs appealed and, following a motion by the Defendants, this Court assumed jurisdiction over this matter. The Plaintiffs assert three grounds for relief in their brief to this Court: (1) the protocol is unconstitutional because it creates a substantial risk of serious harm; (2) the protocol is unconstitutional because it creates a substantial risk of a lingering death; and (3) the trial court erred by dismissing their claim that the protocol is unconstitutional because it requires the State to violate federal drug laws. We hold that the trial court did not err in concluding that the Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of demonstrating that the protocol, on its face, violates the constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. We also hold that the trial court did not err in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ claims that the protocol requires violations of federal drug laws. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.  

Authoring Judge: 
Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Originating Judge: 
Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman
Date Filed: 
Tuesday, March 28, 2017