Tennesse Deathrow Inmate Hours Away From Execution Despite New Evidence Putting Doubt On His Guilt
An inmate on death row in Tennessee is only hours away from being executed despite new DNA evidence putting doubts over his guilt after the governor has refused to step in.
72-year-old Oscar Smith is due to be executed by lethal injection on Thursday over the triple murders of his estranged wife Judith Smith and her two teenage sons Jason and Chad Burnett back in 1989.
Smith has maintained his innocence for over 30 years.
As his execution date has been getting closer, Smith has been fighting to get the murder cases reopened after advances in technology found DNA and a fingerprint belonging to an unidentified person on one of the murder weapons.
With the discovery of the new evidence, Oscar Smith's attorneys filed an appeal earlier this month asking the Davidson County Criminal Court to reopen his case stating that the new DNA evidence proves that Smith is not the killer.
The county court rejected the request and the case was sent to the state's Court of Criminal Appeals, which also refused to carry out a review of the DNA analysis and rejected reopening the case.
Oscar Smith's attorneys then turned to the Tennessee Supreme Court to hear his appeal. However, on Monday, the highest court in the state also refused to step in and stop the execution.
The next day, Governor Bill Lee gave a statement saying he would not intervene in the case and grant Smith clemency.
He said, "After thorough consideration of Oscar Smith's request for clemency and an extensive review of the case, the State of Tennessee's sentence will stand, and I will not be intervening."
Smith has now exhausted all of his legal options, making it look like he is almost certainly going to be the first person executed in the state since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On October 1, 1989, Ms Smith, 16-year-old Chad, and 13-year-old Jason were brutally murdered in their home in Nashville.
Ms Smith was stabbed multiple times and shot in the neck, while Chad was shot in the eye, upper chest, and torso, and Jason was stabbed in the neck and abdomen.
Oscar Smith, who was 40 at the time and had three-year-old twins with Ms Smith, was arrested and charged over the triple murder.
Smith denied being the killer and claimed he had no idea who had carried out the murders.
Witnesses came forward and told authorities that Smith had previously made threats to kill his estranged wife before the incident happened.
During his trial in 1990, Oscar Smith was found guilty of their murders and was handed the death penalty.
He is currently the oldest person in the state on death row. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there have been no executions in the state for the last two years.
The last person executed in Tennessee was serial killer Nicholas Sutton who was put to death by electric chair in February 2020.