Tennessee stays execution of Byron Black citing COVID-19

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June 12 (UPI) -- The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday ordered a stay of execution for a man convicted of killing a woman and her two daughters.

Byron Black requested the stay in April citing disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

His lawyers said they've been unable to conduct the investigations required in the months leading up to his execution, which was scheduled for Oct. 8.

"The COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything we have ever seen before and the court is correct to stay the execution of Bryon Black," Black's lawyer, Kelley Henry, said. "The stay will help protect guards, witnesses, attorneys representing the prisoners, attorneys for the state and everyone else involved in these cases."

Black was convicted in 1988 for killing Angela Clay and her two daughters, Latoya and Lakeisha.

Tennessee has now stayed the executions of two men in response to COVID-19. In April, the court delayed the June execution of Oscar Smith. Texas also has put off the executions of John Hummel, Tracy Beatty, Fabian Hernandez, Billy Wardlow, Carlos Trevino and Edward Busby.

Beyond the delay, Black's lawyers are seeking to have his execution stayed based on grounds he's not competent for execution. They said he has brain damage and schizophrenia, and an IQ of 67.

They said the experts needed to examine Black in order to hold a competency hearing can't travel to Tennessee because of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

"In addition to the mental defects that make him incompetent to be executed, he suffers from many medical ailments. He is physically infirm, can barely walk, is in need of two hip replacements, and suffers from congestive heart failure. He gets around the prison by being pushed in an office chair with wheels," Henry said.

"Mr. Black's attorneys are preparing a motion for a competency hearing because the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of a prisoner who, like Mr. Black, has lost his sanity."

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