NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- An Apache Indian who is Tennessee's only death row inmate with no stay of execution is scheduled to die Nov. 3 and he may refuse to exercise the final appeal of his murder case.
One of three attorneys for Donald Wayne Strouth, 22, convicted of murdering a Kingsport businessman, said there is a possibility Strouth will decide to forego an appeal.
If he does not make the appeal, and all other automatic appeals are declared exhausted, then Strouth could become the first Tennessee inmate in 20 years to be put to death.
The remainder of Tennessee's 22 death row inmates are under a court-ordered stay of execution.
'He just said that he'd make a final decision later on this month,' said attorney Patrick O'Rourke of Nashville. 'He said he would let me know.'
O'Rourke, who visited Strouth at the Tennessee State Prison last week, said no plans for appeal are under way. He said Strouth was 'going back and forth' about whether to appeal.
'We're going to make some final decisions as to what we're going to do later on,' O'Rourke said. 'That may sound vague, but I just don't know how it's going to go.'
Although O'Rourke said Strouth has exhausted all appeals, Gov. Lamar Alexander's legal counsel, Bill Koch, said there will be a substantial delay before Strouth could be executed because state law requires a mandatory appeal.
But O'Rourke insisted that Strouth has already exhausted his automatic appeals and if he decides not to appeal further, the execution could come as early as next month.
'The state statute gives a mandatory appeal and he's had that,' O'Rourke said. 'The Tennessee Supreme Court has already ruled on his case.'
O'Rourke said that if his client did choose to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he would immediately petition the Tennessee Supreme Court for a stay and is confident he would receive one.
Strouth was convicted in 1978 of slitting the throat of James Keegan, 70, during an armed robbery.
The possibility of the state's first execution in 20 years was increased Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Tennessee's death penalty by refusing to consider overturning the convictions of two Memphis men for murder.