A few days after saying the execution of Stephen Michael West could go forward, the Tennessee Supreme Court changed its mind, saying there are unanswered questions about the way the state performs lethal injections, The Tennessean reports. The last-minute decision puts four executions indefinitely on hold and surprised even West’s attorney, Stephen Ferrell. “Reconsideration is something that traditionally doesn’t happen all that often,” Ferrell said. “But I’m glad to see they saw the lack of our opportunity to have any input. I’m pleased they were able to admit they may have made the first decision too hastily.”
The court stayed the executions amid concern that inmates might be conscious and in pain during lethal injections, which could be considered “cruel and unusual punishment.” Last week, the court approved checking for consciousness by having a warden shake the inmate and brush a hand across the eyelashes. But the court reversed itself Monday, saying West’s attorneys deserve a chance to challenge the new method’s constitutionality. West was convicted in 1986 in the murder of a woman and her daughter, 15.