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Tennessee's Death Row

Updated on June 3, 2011
Tennessee's State Flag
Tennessee's State Flag

Today (October 30, 2009), a jury of Knox County peers sentenced Lemaricus Davidson to four counts of death by lethal injection for his role in the horrendous murder/rape case of two University of Tennessee college students. If you are unfamiliar with this particular case check at WBIR's website for the complete details of the crime & case.

It is my opinion that Davidson and all his accomplices should get the death penalty, and quite honestly, lethal injection is too good for this scum of the Earth. However, this is not the reason for this hub. With all the talk of death sentences going around Knoxville these days I thought that I would delve further into Tennessee's history of execution and share with you some of what I discovered.

Electric Chair
Electric Chair

Brief History

Although Tennessee doesn't have as productive of a death row as Texas, the state has had a form of capital punishment for most of the past century. Up until 1913, the state executed prisoners via hanging, usually public. Record keeping was not as important to the government back then so there's no real number of how many people were actually killed before this time.

Tennessee took a hiatus from the death penaly between 1913 and 1915. When capital punishment was reinstated in 1916, hanging was replaced with the electric chair. Death by electrocution was used up until 1998 when Lethal Injection became the new standard in a death sentence. However, convicts who committed their crimes before January 1, 1999 had the choice between the chair and lethal injection. Everyone sentenced to death now must die via lethal injection.

On September 12 of 2007, Daryl Holton died by electrocution. He was the first person to die by the electric chair since 1960.

Between the years of 1972 through 1978, no one was sentenced to death row because the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. After 1978, the death penalty became legal again. The largest majority of people sitting on death row in Tennessee from 1960 to 1978 had their sentences reduced to life.

What its like on Death Row

Death Row inmates are housed either at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution outside of Nashville or Morgan County Correctional Complex located in Wartburg (about 45 miles outside of Knoxville). The two women that are currently on death row are housed at the Tennessee Prison for Women also in Nashville.

The inmates are classified into three different levels: A, B, and C. He or she enters the prison as a level C where they will remained classified as for a minimum of 18 months. After the 18 months, the inmate will be re-evaluated and can possibly be moved up to the B level based on past behavior. After a while, the inmate will have the possibility to move to a level A classification. Each level has additional priviledges. Misconduct can result in going down a level.

The inmates are housed in their cell by themselves for 23 hours a day with that last hour being used for exercise. They are awakened at 5:30 a.m. and lights go out at 9:00 p.m. They receive three meals a day Monday through Friday and two meals on weekends and holidays. Breakfast is at 7 a.m., lunch is served at 11 a.m., and dinner is at 5 in the evening.

Extra Tidbits

There are currently 90 inmates on Tennessee's Death Row. There are 88 males and 2 females. There are 48 Caucasians, 39 African Americans, 1 Hispanic, 1 Native American, and 1 Asian.

Most of the inmates come from the largest counties. Shelby is the leader with 36. Davidson County has 12, Knox has 7, and Hamilton has 4.

West Tennessee has 43 inmates, Middle Tennessee has 22 inmates, and East Tennessee has 25 inmates that are currently sitting on Death Row.

John Henretta is the oldest on Death Row. He was born on February 12, 1943. He was convicted in Bradley County and has been on Death Row since April 2002.

Christa Pike is the youngest female on Death Row being born on March 10, 1976. She was convicted in Knox county and has been on Death Row since March 2006.

Devin Banks is the youngest male on Death Row being born on August 2, 1983. He was convicted in Shelby county in April 2005.

Donald Strouth was born on January 9, 1959 and has been on Tennessee's Death Row the longest. He was convicted in Sullivan County in September 1978.

The aforementioned Lemaricus Davidson is the last person to be sentenced to death. He was convicted in October of 2009 in Knox County.

Executions since 1961

Execution Date
Robert Coe
April 19, 2000
Sedley Alley
June 28, 2006
Phillip Workman
May 9, 2007
Daryl Holton
September 12, 2007
Steve Henley
February 4, 2009

Stats from July 1916 through October 2009



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      6 years ago

      Cobbins- Knoxville Murderer- should have already been dead. Hopefully on the 2nd Trial you will get this done.

    • profile image

      Tanisha W. 

      6 years ago

      What's taking so long for some of these people to be executed? they did the crime were convicted for murder and sentenced to death, and yet most of these people spend years if not decades behind bars, why is this? why do the appeals process have to take so long, sucking up the tax payers money just to house and feed a cold blooded, and mentally demented criminal. I think some of these peoples executions dates should be pushed up. What's taking so long? they're going to die at some point anyway, so why delay the inevitable?


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