NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A death row inmate convicted of murdering seven people was spared a lethal injection when federal courts declined to overrule a stay, frustrating the state's plan for back-to-back executions.
Despite repeated efforts by the state attorney general's office to be allowed to execute Paul Dennis Reid before his execution order expired at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court did not intervene.
Tennessee had scheduled two executions Tuesday for Reid and Sedley Alley, convicted of raping and killing a jogger in 1985. Alley was executed when a last-minute stay was lifted.
But Reid's death sentence was delayed by a federal judge who said a hearing was needed to determine if the inmate was mentally competent to give up appeals of seven death sentences.
The Tennessee Supreme Court has to set a new execution date since Reid was not executed by midnight. In most cases, it takes weeks or months.
After the U.S. Supreme Court's denial, Reid was taken from a death watch area near the execution chamber, where he had been kept since the weekend, back to his normal cell on death row.
The past two days of court filings, orders and on-again, off-again executions have put a strain on prison staff, and counselors were on hand to talk with employees, prison spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said.
"It's been a roller coaster ride," Carter said.
Reid, 48, was convicted of murdering seven people at three Tennessee fast-food restaurants in 1997 after he was fired from his job as a dishwasher.
In other developments Wednesday:
• Execution teams in Ohio will now make every effort to find two injection sites on a condemned inmate's arm and will use a new method to make sure the veins stay open once entryways are inserted, according to a new policy.
The change was prompted by the execution of an inmate that was delayed about 90 minutes when staff had problems finding a viable vein and one vein they did use collapsed.
• Missouri's Corrections Department Director Larry Crawford said his office is finding it challenging to find a board-certified anesthesiologist to assist in lethal injections.
A judge had halted the state's executions until he was satisfied that Missouri's procedures posed no risk of unnecessary pain and suffering. But anesthesiologists are wary of crossing an ethical line that could cost them their practice.