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Civil Rights

Byron Black Execution Stayed Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

— June 25, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution for Byron Black until April 8, 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Black’s execution had been scheduled for October 8, 2020.

“The COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything we have ever seen before and the Court is correct to stay the execution of Byron Black. The stay will help protect guards, witnesses, attorneys representing the prisoners, attorneys for the State, and everyone else involved in these cases. The Court previously granted a stay to Oscar Smith and Texas has placed six executions on hold because of the pandemic. We are grateful that the Court put the public health first.

Mr. Byron Black has brain damage, schizophrenia, and an IQ of 67. In addition to the mental defects that make him incompetent to be executed, he suffers from many medical ailments. He is physically infirm, can barely walk, is in need of two hip replacements, and suffers from congestive heart failure. He gets around the prison by being pushed in an office chair with wheels. Mr. Black’s attorneys are preparing a motion for a competency hearing because the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of a prisoner who, like Mr. Black, has lost his sanity. For the court to evaluate Mr. Black’s competency, it would need to hear from mental health experts who are out of state and can’t travel to Tennessee to examine Mr. Black in the prison at this time. The stay in Mr. Black’s case was absolutely necessary.”

— Kelley Henry, Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender, Nashville, Tennessee

Byron Black was convicted of the triple homicide of his girlfriend and her two daughters in 1988. He was sentenced to death in 1989.

The Court’s order can be viewed here.

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