Tennessee Governor Bill Lee cited attorney-client privilege and the disputed “deliberative process privilege" when he refused to release records related to Oscar Smith's execution.

The records could explain why he decided to abruptly halt the execution of the death row inmate last month, reported the Associated Press. Lee's office released emails containing his public statement issued on April 21. It granted Smith, who was sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, Judith, and her sons, Jason and Chad Burnett, in 1989, a reprieve.

A series of emails from journalists asking for more details about the problems that led Lee to halt the execution was also released by the governor’s office. The journalists were referred to the public statement, which said that there was an “oversight” in the drugs' preparation.

In a new statement on Monday, Lee elaborated saying that the drugs to be used in the 72-year-old's execution were tested for potency and sterility. They were not tested for endotoxins that are required by the state’s execution protocols.

According to TN Office of the Governor, Lee announced on Monday plans to launch a third-party review of a lethal injection testing oversight that resulted in a temporary reprieve for Smith. Lee said that he reviews each death penalty case and believes it is an "appropriate punishment for heinous crimes." But he noted that the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and he expects the "Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.”

Lee shared that an investigation by a respected "third-party will ensure any operational failures at TDOC are thoroughly addressed."

A temporary moratorium on executions through the end of 2022 was placed by Lee. He appointed former US Attorney Ed Stanton to review circumstances that led to the failure.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Smith’s execution was to be the first of five scheduled this year. Since the pandemic halted executions in 2020, it was also to be Tennessee’s first execution. The rescheduled dates for the 2022 executions will be determined by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Inmates who are on death row can choose to be executed by electric chair rather than lethal injection. Lethal injection is the default execution method in Tennessee.

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