Paedophile executed for rape and murder of girl, 7, while lodging in Tennessee family home

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Billy Irick was administered a lethal injection at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville on Thursday and pronounced dead at 7.48pm.

The 59-year-old has become the first inmate to be executed in Tennessee since 2009, after spending more than 35 years on death row.

He was convicted for raping and strangling Paula Dyer, in her Knoxville home in 1985.

Irick had been a lodger at the home where the girl lived with her mother, stepfather and siblings and was babysitting her at the time.

Hours before his execution, Irick’s lawyers challenged the US Supreme Court’s decision in a bid to spare his life.

Claiming Irick had suffered from psychosis all his life, lawyers argued the court violated the legal requirements for death row sentencing which bars executing people with severe mental disorders or disabilities.

However, Tennessee state prosecutors said Irick was aware of the severity of his actions and he was competent and did not raise his mental claim properly in state court.

Executions in Tennessee have been put on hold for years, after death row inmates filed dozens of lawsuits against the state, arguing about their use of lethal drugs and death chamber protocols.

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Irick and several other inmates placed on death row tried to oust Tennessee’s lethal injection mix of sedative midazolam, deeming it unfit to be used in executions.

Their lawyers argued midazolam does not achieve the same level of unconsciousness required for surgery, making it inhumane to administer.

Midazolam is a medication used for anesthesia, procedural sedation, trouble sleeping, and severe agitation.

The drug is often used in a cocktail with other combinations, creating a lethal injection mix used for executions.

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Midazolam has been a source of controversy, after several prisoners took a longer time to die and appeared to be in pain when midazolam was used.

Death penalty critics have argued midazolam is a sedative — not an anaesthetic — and that inmates would be awake for a while before succumbing to the drugs effects.

In 2017, Patrick Forcelli, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Georgetown University Medical Centre told Live Science: «From the doses that have been looked at, [midazolam] provides sedation, but not true anesthesia.»

“In reaching this conclusion, the court sweeps aside substantial evidence showing that, while midazolam may be able to induce unconsciousness, it cannot be utilised to maintain unconsciousness in the face of agonising stimuli.

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Irick’s lawyers argued his execution should have been delayed in order to give an appeals court enough time to decide on the matter.

An inmate could suffer extensive harm if administered midazolam, violating US constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishments, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, after the Supreme Court denied to postpone Irick’s execution.

She added: «If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience, then we have stopped being a civilised nation and accepted barbarism.»

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