After Only One Execution in 45 Years, Tennessee Prepares for Two on Same Day

Tennessee officials were preparing Tuesday to carry out the state's second execution in 45 years, that of a man convicted of raping and killing a jogger.

The state had planned two, back-to-back executions early Wednesday, but a federal judge issued a stay late Tuesday afternoon for the second condemned man.

Federal Judge Todd Campbell halted the execution and ordered a hearing to determine whether Paul Dennis Reid was competent to drop his appeals of seven death sentences tied to a string of 1997 murders.

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Reid, 48, a former Texas drifter who doctors have testified is brain damaged and mentally ill, was convicted of killing seven people at three Tennessee restaurants after he was fired from his job as a dishwasher at a Shoney's. He dropped his appeals against his attorneys' advice.

The state Supreme Court this month rejected efforts by Reid's attorneys and sister to continue fighting his execution without his cooperation, but Campbell agreed Tuesday to order a competency hearing. The state was preparing to appeal that ruling, the spokeswoman for the attorney general said Tuesday.

Reid and Sedley Alley, convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a Marine who was out for a jog, had both been on death watch at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Although Alley has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction and sentence, his defense team continued fighting his execution Tuesday with petitions challenging the state's method of lethal injection and seeking DNA testing on evidence from his case.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to issue a stay, but Alley still had petitions before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alley, 50, had confessed to accosting 19-year-old Marine Suzanne Collins while she jogged near a Navy base north of Memphis. He claimed at trial to have multiple personalities, but since 2004, he has recanted his confession, argued he is innocent and said DNA testing could prove it.

He got a reprieve in May from Gov. Phil Bredesen to seek court permission for the DNA testing. But at midday Tuesday, his defense team, led by Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, had been unable to persuade a court to order the evidence released.

The last Tennessee inmate executed was a convicted child rapist and murderer put to death in 2000. Before that, the last execution was by electric chair in 1960.

Tennessee has 108 inmates on death row.

Only four states — Arkansas, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas — have conducted double executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

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