Court: Johnson body doesn’t need autopsy

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 3:59pm
Staff reports

The Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision Thursday that will bar the state from conducting a post-mortem autopsy on executed inmate Cecil C. Johnson.

Johnson’s family has been fighting the autopsy — based on religious reasons — since Johnson was executed Dec. 2.

Tennessee law gives the state the right to conduct the post-mortem autopsy on all condemned inmates, but a separate statute grants preservation of religious freedom.

Sarah Ann Johnson, the wife of Cecil C. Johnson, filed an order in Davidson County Chancery Court to prevent the autopsy. On Dec. 17, the chancellor ordered the state not perform an autopsy and that Mr. Johnson’s body be released to his family for burial.

State Medical Examiner Bruce Levy filed an emergency request for a stay of the Chancery Court ruling that was granted.

In the opinion written by Judge Frank G. Clement, the court says the medical examiner has failed to show convincing evidence that an autopsy was essential to the state’s case.

The state’s next action is to appeal to the state Supreme Court.