UPDATE: The state carried out the execution of Steve Henley early this morning, according to Department of Corrections spokesperson Dorinda Carter. He was pronounced dead at 1:33 a.m., she said.
As originally published
Hours prior to his 1 a.m. execution, Steve Henley was sleeping.
Henley, who was arrested in 1985 for the murder of a Jackson County married couple, didn’t get more than three or four hours of sleep last night, according to Dorinda Carter, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He spent a busy day today meeting with family members and spiritual advisers. By early evening, he was taking a nap.
“[It’s] a stressful night for everybody — the staff, the other inmates, of course Mr. Henley and his family, the victims’ family,” Carter said.
As of late this evening, Henley’s execution remains on schedule. A series of late appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Tennessee Supreme Court was struck down hours ago.
Clemency from Governor Phil Bredesen is possible, although he rejected a request for a 30-day reprieve around 9 p.m., his press secretary, Lydia Lenker, said in a statement.
Henley’s family members, as well as opponents of the death penalty, gathered at 7 p.m. for a rememberance service at a Bellevue church. Then, just after 9 p.m., Henley’s spiritual adviser arrived at Riverbend Maximum Security prison to deliver communion.
Henley is currently being held in Riverbend’s “death watch” area, a cell adjacent to the execution chamber. At 1 a.m., Henley will be placed on a gurney and taken to the execution chamber. He’ll be able to make any last statement at 1:05 a.m. Shortly after, a series of three injections will fulfill Henley’s sentence.
Henley’s son and daughter-in-law will witness the execution, as will Henley’s spiritual adviser and his attorneys. A nephew of the victims is on site at the prison, but may not witness. Six members of the media will also observe, including staff from The City Paper, The Tennessean, The Nashville Scene, and The Associated Press.
The murders of Fred and Edna Stafford were committed July 24, 1985. Both victims were shot, and their house was set on fire.
Henley, who has maintained his innocence from the start, was convicted by a jury in Jackson County of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated arson.
A co-defendant for the crime, Terry Flatt, pled guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of armed robbery and one count of aggravated arson. Flatt was given a total sentence of 25 years, which expired on March 31 of last year.
In a flurry of last-minute filings, attorneys for Henley requested a stay of execution from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and an execution mandate recall from the state Supreme Court.
Attorneys, in their appeal to the state Supreme Court, had alleged that Henley's court-appointed attorney exhibited a "total lack of preparation" and that the attorney "had done absolutely no preparation whatsoever with regard to mitigation."
The high court denied the motion. Bredesen followed with his rejection.
“Earlier this evening, Steve Henley's attorneys submitted to Governor Bredesen a request for a 30-day reprieve. The Governor considered the request and determined that it did not warrant overturning the courts' rulings in this case,” Lenker’s statement read. "Mr. Henley's attorney was notified of this decision."
Clint Brewer contributed to this report.