U.S. Supreme Court justice offers dissent on decision to execute Billy Ray Irick

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - As the US Supreme Court refused to stop Irick's execution, at least one Supreme Court justice opposed that decision.

Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor offered a dissent of the decision to execute the convicted killer and rapist, basing her objection on the controversy surrounding Tennessee's three-drug protocol.

Sotomayor wrote in her dissent quote, "If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience then we have stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism."

At question is whether midazolam is actually effective in rendering someone unconscious and unable to feel pain from the other two drugs. Federal public defender and Irick's lawyer Kelley Henry said in a lawsuit challenging the lethal injection method in Tennessee that inmates can feel like chemical waterboarding, liquid fire, being buried alive or exposure to sarin gas.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the execution when Irick's lawyers asked for a stay of execution. 

Irick was convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old Knoxville girl. This was Tennessee's first execution since 2009.

A statewide group called Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty held a vigil Thursday to protest the execution of Billy Ray Irick.

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