After an independent investigation into Tennessee's lethal injection execution protocol found the process has been riddled with errors and poor oversight for years, the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) parted ways with its top lawyer and inspector general, according to USA Today. Debra Inglis, former general counsel, and Kelly Young, the inspector general, were informed of the decision on Dec. 27, a day before Gov. Bill Lee released the report. Lee announced a moratorium on executions in May, tapping former U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton to review the state's execution protocol after officials discovered drugs for an April execution were not properly tested. “The fact of the matter is not one TDOC employee made it their duty to understand the current Protocol’s testing requirements and ensure compliance,” the report said.
The investigation found that the three drugs used in Tennessee's lethal injection protocol were not properly tested for endotoxins, a type of contaminant. TDOC never gave its lethal injection protocol to the Texas pharmacy contracted to oversee the procurement and testing of the deadly drugs, the probe found. The findings largely mirror a Tennessean review of hundreds of pages of court records published in May that found the state did not adhere to its own protocols. The records also indicate the state was aware of issues through ongoing lawsuits against the state, and still chose to move forward with Oscar Franklin Smith's planned execution on April 21, which was called off after a last-minute intervention by Lee. In a December statement on the investigation's findings, Lee's office said "staffing changes at the department's leadership level" was a top priority. Lee announced Frank Strada would lead the state’s prisons, which have been overseen by interim commissioner Lisa Helton. Lee has also tasked new department leadership to revise Tennessee's lethal injection protocol. The 18 executions nationwide in 2022 was the lowest total in any pre-pandemic year since 1991. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, seven of last year's 20 execution attempts were visibly problematic or took an excessive amount of time to be completed.