2nd Tennessee inmate seeks execution delay amid coronavirus


This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Department of Correction shows Byron Black. Tennessee has set two new execution dates, just days after putting to death its seventh inmate in the past year-and-a-half. On Monday, the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered an Oct. 8 execution date for inmate Black and a Dec. 3 execution date for Pervis Payne. (Tennessee Department of Correction via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee death row inmate is hoping to become the second in the state to have his execution delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorneys for 64-year-old Byron Black on Wednesday requested that the Tennessee Supreme Court reschedule his execution scheduled for Oct. 8.

The attorneys cited the pandemic, saying it has made it impossible now to have a hearing on whether Black is competent to be executed. They also wrote that the health crisis is interfering with his ability to prepare for a clemency request.

Additionally, they said holding an execution during a pandemic would require special safeguards to protect witnesses whose presence could risk transmitting the virus to staff and inmates at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

State officials are evaluating wider testing at the prison, where only two of almost 800 inmates have been tested for the virus so far. One has tested positive, but is not on death row, corrections officials have said.

Black was convicted by a Nashville court of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home in 1988. Prosecutors said he shot the three during a jealous rage. Black was on work release at the time for shooting and wounding Clay’s estranged husband.

The state Supreme Court previously delayed inmate Oscar Smith’s execution from June to February due to the coronavirus.

Texas has already delayed six executions due to the outbreak. In Tennessee, two other executions currently remain scheduled this year: Harold Nichols on Aug. 4 and Pervis Payne on Dec. 3.

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