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Billy Ray Irick, Killer Who Could Face Electric Chair, Wins Reprieve

Billy Ray Irick was slated for an Oct. 7 execution, but Tennessee's highest court has put that on hold.
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A death-row inmate who could have been the first to face the electric chair since Tennessee brought it back has won a reprieve from the state's highest court. Billy Ray Irick, 55, was scheduled to be executed Oct. 7 for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old Knoxville girl. But the Tennessee Supreme Court put that on hold Thursday because a challenge to the execution protocol in a lower court has been delayed.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law in May that allows the state to use the electric chair when it can't get drugs for lethal injections. Ten death-row inmates who were already suing over the state's switch to a new execution drug were recently given permission to also challenge the return of electrocution as a violation of their constitutional rights. State officials have not said whether they have the chemicals on hand to execute Irick, who would be the first prisoner killed since 2009.

The most recent person to be killed in an electric chair was Robert Gleason, a three-time murderer who chose to go to the chair in Virginia on Jan. 16, 2013, after killing two fellow inmates to speed up his journey to death row. The last prisoner who went to the electric chair without being given a choice was Lynda Block, a cop-killer who was executed on May 10, 2002, in Alabama.


— Tracy Connor