Billy Ray Irick was executed on Thursday by way of lethal injection at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nasheville, Tennessee, at 59 years old. He stood convicted of the rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer. Irick was supposed to be babysitting her at the time.
It is the first execution by the state of Tennessee in nearly a decade.
According to Fox News, Irick was allotted $20 for his last meal. Prisoners on death row all receive the same allowance for the meal just preceding their execution. According to the report Irick chose a food combo consisting of a super deluxe burger, onion rings, and a Pepsi to drink.
The source did not identify the name of the restaurant providing Irick’s last meal, citing “an abundance of caution.”
Among the witnesses to Irick’s execution was Paula Dyer’s mother, Kathy Jeffers.
Dyer’s mother and stepfather were allowing Irick, then 26, to reside with them, though Paula’s mother had expressed prior concerns about Irick’s potentially serious mental health concerns after she’d heard him talking to himself in a drunken stupor just before Paula’s murder.
Irick called Kenny Jeffers, Paula’s stepfather, in April of 1985 to inform him that Paula would not wake up. Later, Kenny and Kathy found Paula on their bed, having died of asphyxiation.
Billy Ray Irick spent 32 years on death row attempting to be exonerated on the basis of his mental health issues, and the last time his execution was delayed was in 2014. The United States Supreme Court ultimately rejected his request of delay for execution at the will of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
The decision was rebuked by fellow Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and wrote a statement expressing her view on the issue.
“In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the Court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the state of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody, while shrouding his suffering behind a veneer of paralysis.”
Trial experts stated in Davidson County that a commonly used drug, midazolam, doesn’t always fully make its victim unconscious, resulting in a feeling comparable to being simultaneously drowned and burned alive.
Chancellor of Davidson County Ellen Hobbs Lyle rejected a lawsuit from potentially affected inmates, arguing that while she agrees it may be as painful as experts describe, there is no law stating that the executed has a right to a painless death.
Billy Ray Irick was pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m. on Thursday, August 9, 2018.