- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014
Supreme Court hears arguments in execution case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday questioned why the attorneys for 10 death row inmates would need to know the names of the people who carry out Tennessee’s executions.

The inmates are challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s execution procedures, but the case has been on hold for months while the parties argue over whether the state is required to release the names.

In court, Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Smith argued that the names of the people who carry out the execution protocols are irrelevant to the question of whether the protocols are constitutional.

Justice Sharon Lee asked, “Don’t they have a right to determine whether the people carrying out executions are competent?”

Smith said inmates do not have a right to “supervise and oversee every detail of an execution.”

Even if the names were released only to the inmates’ attorneys, staff and experts, there is still a risk that they could become public and a potential for “extreme public backlash.” If a pharmacist who was publicly identified as providing execution drugs, it could destroy his career, Smith said.


Troubled youth center making improvements

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A troubled Middle Tennessee youth detention center has increased security and is making changes to its behavior-modification program in hopes of preventing future rioting and escapes, officials said Thursday.

Reporters were invited to take a tour of Woodland Hills in Nashville, where more than 30 teenagers escaped on Sept. 1. All were eventually recaptured. That escape was the first of three major problems at the facility in September. There also was a riot in the yard and another breakout in which 13 teens escaped.

Since then, the center has used concrete to reinforce the bottom of the fence that surrounds the facility. Workers also have reinforced aluminum panels under the dormitory windows that the teens were able to kick out during the first escape, and covered both the panels and windows with mesh steel.

The facility’s behavior-modification program is also being changed to a more incentive-based program and less of a punitive model.

“It makes a big difference for those … who want to change,” said security manager Michael Gordon, one of several facility officials who accompanied reporters on the tour.

“Given the right set of circumstances, you can reach about 80 percent or a little higher.”


TBI resumes involvement in 24th Judicial District

DECATURVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation resumed investigations Thursday in the five-county judicial district where the high-profile death of a 20-year-old nursing student is being prosecuted, a day after saying it was suspending activities there.

The TBI announced Wednesday it was suspending investigations in the 24th Judicial District as the result of a disagreement with District Attorney General Matt Stowe.

But Thursday night, the agency issued a release saying it was resuming work in the district and that Stowe has requested a special prosecutor to handle Holly Bobo’s case.

“We are committed to our relationship with those local law enforcement agencies and hope to do what we can to provide the excellent investigative and forensic resources to which they’re accustomed,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said in the release.

The TBI said Stowe asked the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference to appoint a prosecutor to handle the Bobo case.

A message left at Stowe’s office was not immediately returned Thursday evening.


2 in meningitis outbreak case to be released

BOSTON (AP) - Two men at the center of a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people around the U.S. will be released from custody, pending their criminal trials, a federal judge in Boston ruled Thursday.

U.S. Magistrate Jennifer Boal issued an electronic order saying that the U.S. attorney’s office had “not met its burden” in requesting the detention of Barry Cadden and Glenn Chinn.

Cadden is a co-founder of the now-shuttered New England Compounding Center; Chin was the Framingham-based company’s supervisory pharmacist. The judge said she will set conditions for their release Friday.

Cadden and Chin were among 14 people arrested Wednesday in a federal racketeering conspiracy that authorities say is the largest U.S. criminal case ever brought over contaminated medicine.

New England Compounding Center employees are accused of using expired ingredients and failing to follow cleanliness standards, resulting in tainted steroid injections used mostly for back pain. More than 750 people in 20 states fell ill and 64 died.

About half of the victims developed a rare fungal form of meningitis. The rest suffered joint or spinal infections.

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