april 9, 2014
Tennessee wants to execute death row’s longest-standing resident.
Donald Wayne Strouth, 55, has been on death row since 1978 for the murder of a second-hand store owner in Kingsport. He’s accused of knocking out and slashing the throat of Jimmy Keegan in a robbery, leaving his body behind in his store, where his wife later found him.
Strouth, who was known to carry a hawkbill knife, was seen by witnesses afterward with blood still on his hands.
He outlived the man who was convicted alongside him, Jeffrey Dicks. Dicks, like most death row inmates over the past decade or so, died not by execution but by natural causes when he suffered a heart attack in 1999.
But Tuesday, Tennessee’s Supreme Court set a date for Strouth’s execution: March 15, 2016.
It may seem far off, but the justices built in time for an ongoing lawsuit dealing with the secrecy of Tennessee’s death penalty to run its course. Eleven death row inmates are suing the state to turn over details about how it plans to perform its lethal injection, trying to overcome a 2013 law that sealed many of those details behind a veil of secrecy. They argue that if they don’t know what the state is using to kill them and where it came from, there’s no way to know whether the execution meets constitutional safeguards against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
That lawsuit, which is ongoing, has pushed back at least one execution date.
Strouth has argued that he suffers from brain damage and mental illness, but the state’s Supreme Court was unswayed.
He is at least the 10th death row inmate to have an execution date. Billy Ray Irick, who raped and murdered a 7-year-old Knoxville girl in 1985, is scheduled to die first, on Oct. 7. The state is awaiting an execution date for an 11th inmate.
Tennessee has not executed a prisoner since 2009.