NASHVILLE - An agreement was reached Friday that will allow the state to go ahead with a limited autopsy on the body of an executed inmate who had asked a court to stop the procedure.
Federal Judge Todd Campbell approved the settlement between lawyers for inmate Philip Workman and the state that clears the way for a less invasive autopsy. State medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy said the autopsy would be performed Saturday morning, 10 days after Workman was put to death by lethal injection.
Campbell had ruled earlier this week that the autopsy could proceed, but he delayed the post-mortem until after May 24 to allow Workman's lawyers to appeal the decision.
Workman had said in a petition filed before his May 9 execution that he didn't want an autopsy because it conflicts with his Seventh Day Adventist religious beliefs. He also asked to be buried without embalming.
The autopsy procedure will be similar to those performed for adherents of other religions with strict prohibitions, Levy said. It will involve visually inspecting but not removing the organs and relying on fluid collection and possibly biopsies to provide details of the death.
After the autopsy is complete, Workman's body will be released to his brother, Terry Workman, for burial.
Levy previously testified that the autopsy is needed to make sure the state carried out his lethal injection appropriately. Workman's execution was the first under revised state procedures put in place the week before his lethal injection. The inmate tried to challenge the new procedures in court, but his petitions failed.
Workman was sentenced to death for a 1981 shootout that killed a Memphis police officer.
Levy noted during his testimony that the closer to the time of death, the more accurate the information obtained from an autopsy will be. He said evidence from an autopsy loses scientific value as time goes by.
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