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Haslam: Prayer to help guide execution decisions

April 24th, 2014 7:15 am by Associated Press

Haslam: Prayer to help guide execution decisions

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at a Tennessee Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will rely on prayer and advice from experts when he is faced with last-minute appeals from death row inmates facing execution.

The Republican governor stressed at a forum hosted by the Christian group Q Ideas on Wednesday that he has yet to be confronted with death penalty decisions because of court-ordered delays.

"So I can't honestly answer when it comes down to 11 o'clock the night before exactly what that would feel like and look like," Haslam said.

Haslam said he would gather a team of experts in mental health and law enforcement and prosecutors to help him sort through the intricacies of each case.

"I feel like my responsibility is to literally dive into each individual situation, talk to as many smart people about that situation as I can, pray about it and make a decision at that point in time," he said. "Again, that literally hasn't happened yet, but there are quite a few coming."

At the start of the year, 10 of the state's 76 inmates on death row had scheduled execution dates. One of them, Nickolus Johnson, had been scheduled to die April 22, but was granted a stay last month.

Haslam told reporters earlier this week that he is also carefully considering whether to sign into law a bill to allow the state to electrocute prisoners in the event that it can't obtain drugs used in lethal injections.

"As governor, I can't think of any decisions you have that are as serious and as complex as the decisions around capital punishment," Haslam said in Columbia on Monday. "And so, we'll be looking at that bill and obviously there's several cases winding their way to us over the next year."

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