Case: Abdur'rahman v. Parker

18-00183 | Tennessee state trial court

Filed Date: Feb. 20, 2018

Closed Date: May 13, 2019

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

Abu Ali Abdur'rahman and a group of more than 30 other Tennessee death row inmates filed this action against the state's Commissioner of Corrections in Davidson County Chancery Court on February 20, 2018. The complaint alleged that Tennessee adopted a new lethal injection protocol that permitted the use of two procedures. One procedure involved only the chemical pentobarbital, while the other procedure involved a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. The plaintif…

Abu Ali Abdur'rahman and a group of more than 30 other Tennessee death row inmates filed this action against the state's Commissioner of Corrections in Davidson County Chancery Court on February 20, 2018. The complaint alleged that Tennessee adopted a new lethal injection protocol that permitted the use of two procedures. One procedure involved only the chemical pentobarbital, while the other procedure involved a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. The plaintiffs alleged that the latter three-drug procedure would result in plaintiffs experiencing terror, pain, and suffocation during execution in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, as well as the equivalent provisions of the Tennessee state constitution. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief declaring the second procedure unconstitutional, and also sought declaratory relief alleviating them of the need to prove that an alternative execution method was available. The plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and the Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee, and the case was assigned to Chancellor Ellen Hobbes Lyle.

On March 29, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, followed by reply and response briefing from both parties, and a motion to compel discovery by the plaintiffs. On May 2, 2018, Chancellor Hobbes held a hearing regarding the motions to dismiss and compel discovery. According to the docket, on May 7, 2018, the court issued a order granting in part and denying in part both motions. The plaintiffs then proceeded with discovery, including depositions of the defendants and others.

On July 9, 2018, following additional discovery, Chancellor Hobbes held a bench trial, and on July 26 issued an order dismissing the suit with prejudice. The plaintiffs immediately appealed. On August 13, 2018, a "reach down" order was issued by the state supreme court, removing the matter the Tennessee Supreme Court. On October 8, 2018, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the trial court dismissal of the suit. 558 S.W.3d 606. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins, the court found that Tennessee's protocol did "not rise to the level of punishments that are categorically forbidden by the Eighth Amendment." The court also concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show that an alternative method of execution was available to the defendants.

On October 11, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiff's petition for certiorari, over the dissent of Justices Sotomayor. 139 S.Ct. 1533. Justice Sotomayor criticized the alternative-method requirement as a framework through which to analyze death penalty challenges. The case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Nathaniel Flack (2/28/2020)

People


Judge(s)

Bivins, Jeffrey S. (Tennessee)

Clark, Cornelia A. (Tennessee)

Kirby, Holly M. (Tennessee)

Lee, Sharon G. (Tennessee)

Lyle, Ellen Hobbs (Tennessee)

Page, Roger A. (Tennessee)

Sotomayor, Sonia (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Hansen Chavis, Dana C (Tennessee)

Henry , Kelley J. (Tennessee)

MacLean, Bradley Alan (Tennessee)

Judge(s)

Bivins, Jeffrey S. (Tennessee)

Clark, Cornelia A. (Tennessee)

Kirby, Holly M. (Tennessee)

Lee, Sharon G. (Tennessee)

Lyle, Ellen Hobbs (Tennessee)

Page, Roger A. (Tennessee)

Sotomayor, Sonia (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Hansen Chavis, Dana C (Tennessee)

Henry , Kelley J. (Tennessee)

MacLean, Bradley Alan (Tennessee)

Morris, Kathleen (Tennessee)

Rieder, J William (Tennessee)

Shiles, Carl Gene Jr (Tennessee)

Smith, Jennifer L. (Washington)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

Aug. 10, 2018 Docket

Complaint for Declaratory Judgment

Feb. 20, 2018 Complaint

Opinion

Tennessee state supreme court

558 S.W.3d 606

Oct. 8, 2018 Order/Opinion

Opinion

Supreme Court of the United States

139 S.Ct. 1533

May 13, 2019 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Parole News Blog links to Clearinghouse

Parole News

Link to Clearinghouse: "Profile of the Graziano v. Pataki federal case, produced by the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse" Aug. 7, 2016 http://parolenews.blogspot.com/...

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Tennessee

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 20, 2018

Closing Date: May 13, 2019

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Tennessee death row inmates.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Commissioner of Correction, State

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Due Process

Supremacy Clause

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Torture

Death Penalty:

Lethal Injection - Chemicals Used

Lethal Injection - General