Tennessee sets 3 more inmate executions, plans 5 in 2022

Mar 3, 2022, 12:07 PM | Updated: 1:06 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee last week set three new execution dates for inmates in 2022, driving the total number of executions planned this year to five.

The state had temporarily halted executions during the pandemic but is currently planning one execution every other month beginning in April.

The new dates include an Aug. 18 execution for Byron Black, 65, who has claimed in court filings that he should not be executed because he has an intellectual disability. A hearing on the disability claim scheduled for Feb. 16 was postponed.

Black was convicted in Davidson County of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay, 29, and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home on in April 1988. Prosecutors said he was in a jealous rage when he shot the three. At the time of the killings, Black was on work release while serving time for shooting and wounding Clay’s estranged husband.

The Tennessee Supreme Court set a Dec. 8 execution date for Donald Middlebrooks, 59. He has claimed in court filings he should not be executed because he is seriously mentally ill. The court set an October deadline for Middlebrooks to challenge his competency to be executed.

Middlebrooks was convicted for the 1987 torture and murder of a 14-year-old boy in Nashville. Two others who participated in the killing received life sentences.

The third execution date set was for Gary Sutton, 52, on Oct. 6. Sutton was sentenced to death in 1996 with co-defendant James Dellinger for the 1992 shotgun slaying of Tommy Griffin, 24, in Blount County. The defendants had previously been convicted in 1993 of murdering Griffin’s sister, Connie Branam, whose body was discovered in her burned vehicle. Dellinger still has pending court challenges in his case.

The state Supreme Court earlier set execution dates this year for Oscar Smith, 71, and Harold Nichols, 61.

During the pandemic pause on executions, two inmates were removed from death row. Pervis Payne, 54, successfully showed the court that he was intellectually disabled. He was resentenced in January and will be eligible for parole in about five years.

Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman, 71, was resentenced in November after a judge found his trial had been tainted by racism during jury selection. He was resentenced to three consecutive life sentences.

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Tennessee sets 3 more inmate executions, plans 5 in 2022