NASHVILLE, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The Tennessee Attorney General's Office has asked the state Supreme Court to set execution dates for 10 of the 78 inmates on death row.
One of the 10 already has a Jan. 15 execution date, the (Nashville) Tennessean reported. An 11th, not on the list, is scheduled to die April 22.
Tennessee has carried out only six executions since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty constitutional but set new guidelines for imposing it.
"I've been representing death row inmates for two decades, and never in my experience have I ever seen a situation where a state has requested 10 execution dates all at once," said Kelley Henry, a federal public defender in Nashville. "This is an unprecedented situation."
Henry, in charge of capital punishment defense in the Nashville public defender's office, represents several of the inmates the state wants to execute.
Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the request was procedural because all 10 inmates have exhausted appeals. She said the state, which has not put anyone to death since 2009, has also set up a new protocol for lethal injection, the newspaper said.
David Raybin, a Nashville defense lawyer who played a key role in writing Tennessee's capital punishment law, told the Tennessean the death of spree killer Paul Dennis Reid Jr. on Nov. 1 may have been a factor. Reid, given seven death sentences for killing fast food employees in 1997, died of natural causes at Nashville General Hospital.
The inmates on Tennessee's death row have been there on average longer than 10 years. The 10 on the attorney general's list average 27 years, with most of them sentenced in the 1980s.