Tennessee inmate executed in electric chair for killings | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Tennessee inmate executed in electric chair for killings

Associated Press
1549610_web1_1549610-b0131ced123e4941ad90111e0258c12b
This booking photo released by the Tennessee Department of Corrections shows Stephen West. West has made a last minute request to be put to death in the electric chair instead of dying by lethal injection. The state Department of Correction on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 confirmed West made the request ahead of his Thursday execution. He previously opted against selecting a preference, which would have resulted in lethal injection. (Tennessee Department of Corrections via AP)
1549610_web1_1549610-a462b8fb336143bc8153d519bf675dc2
Ralph Hutchison lights candles at a vigil, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn., for death row inmate Stephen Michael West. Tennessee executed West, who maintained that he didn’t stab a mother and her 15-year-old daughter to death in 1986. The vigil was organized by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
1549610_web1_1549610-1c3b930612924a71b2662b14d28dca83
Ralph Hutchison lights candles at a vigil, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn., for death row inmate Stephen Michael West. Tennessee executed West, who maintained that he didn’t stab a mother and her 15-year-old daughter to death in 1986. The vigil was organized by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
1549610_web1_1549610-9959f8d6cee948b6bb87905e035c1da7
People hold candles at a vigil, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn., for death row inmate Stephen Michael West. Tennessee executed West, who maintained that he didn’t stab a mother and her 15-year-old daughter to death in 1986. The vigil was organized by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
1549610_web1_1549610-a6590c5eb5b9432a8e58862076686910
Ed Patrick bows his head during a candlelight vigil, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn., for death row inmate Stephen Michael West. Tennessee executed West, who maintained that he didn’t stab a mother and her 15-year-old daughter to death in 1986. The vigil was organized by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
1549610_web1_1549610-458c96b16c444443a0084151ea3ee3bf
People gather for a candlelight vigil, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn., for death row inmate Stephen Michael West. Tennessee executed West, who maintained that he didn’t stab a mother and her 15-year-old daughter to death in 1986. The vigil was organized by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee executed its third inmate in the electric chair since November, killing a man Thursday who maintained that he didn’t stab a mother and her 15-year-old daughter to death in 1986.

State officials pronounced 56-year-old Stephen West dead at 7:27 p.m. at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

For his final words, West said, “In the beginning, God created man.” Then he started to cry and continued, “And Jesus wept. That is all.”

This week, West decided he preferred to die in the electric chair after previously voicing no preference, which would have defaulted him to lethal injection. His attorney in a court filing wrote that the electric chair is “also unconstitutional, yet still less painful” compared with the state’s preference of a three-drug lethal injection.

Attorneys for inmates David Miller and Edmund Zagorski made the same arguments before they chose to die by the electric chair in 2018. Both unsuccessfully argued to courts that Tennessee’s procedure, which uses the drug midazolam, results in a prolonged and torturous death.

Tennessee has put two inmates to death by lethal injection since August 2018.

In Tennessee, condemned inmates whose crimes occurred before 1999 can opt for the electric chair.

West’s attorney has argued that some “feasible and readily implemented alternative methods of execution exist that significantly reduce the substantial risk of severe pain and suffering” compared with the state’s three-drug protocol or electrocution: a single bullet to the back of the head, a firing squad, a “euthanasia oral cocktail” or one-drug pentobarbital, according to a February court filing.

West was one of four death row inmates who sued last year, asking a federal court’s permission to use a firing squad as an execution method. Currently, just three states — Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah — continue to allow the use of firing squads. However, the last time that method was used was in 2010.

The last state other than Tennessee to carry out an execution by electrocution was Virginia in 2013, according to Death Penalty Information Center data.

West was found guilty of the kidnapping and stabbing deaths of 51-year-old Wanda Romines and her 15-year-old daughter, Sheila Romines. He also was convicted of the teenager’s rape.

In a clemency plea to Gov. Bill Lee, attorneys for West wrote that his then-17-year-old accomplice Ronnie Martin actually killed both Union County victims. West was 23 at the time. Their cases were separated, and while West was sentenced to death, Martin pleaded guilty as a juvenile and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 2030.

In a court filing, the state said West brutally stabbed the victims to death. An expert at West’s trial concluded two people were involved in stabbing the teen.

Eddie Campbell, the nephew of Wanda Romines’ now-deceased husband, issued a wide-ranging statement after Thursday’s execution. He said he has forgiveness in his heart for West and Martin but doesn’t think justice should be ignored.

Regardless of the arguments about who killed the women, Tennessee is one of 27 states that allow executions of “non-triggermen” convicted of involvement in a felony resulting in a victim’s death, even if they didn’t kill anyone themselves, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

West’s clemency filing says the jury never heard a jail recording from Martin saying he carried out the killings, not West. But a 1989 state Supreme Court opinion rejected the recording as uncorroborated hearsay that wouldn’t have exonerated West.

West’s attorney opted against playing the tape at sentencing because the judge would have allowed other recordings in which Martin incriminated West, court records show.

The governor denied West’s clemency application, which also said West had been taking powerful medication in prison to treat mental illness.

In a statement, West’s attorneys said they were deeply disappointed the state executed “a man whom the state has diagnosed with severe mental illness; a man of deep faith who has made a positive impact on those around him for decades; and a man who by overwhelming evidence did not commit these murders but has nevertheless taken personal responsibility for his involvement in these crimes.”

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.