Negotiations under way over Workman autopsy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Lawyers for executed inmate Philip Workman and state officials are trying to negotiate an agreement for a limited autopsy to be performed on his body sooner than three weeks after he died.

A federal judge ruled earlier this week that the state can perform an autopsy on Workman, who was executed May 9. But U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell also delayed the autopsy until after May 24 to give Workman's lawyers time to appeal his ruling.

Kelley Henry, one of Workman's lawyers, said Friday that they have not filed an appeal but have been negotiating with state officials. If an agreement is reached, it would be up to Campbell to decide if the autopsy can proceed.

Workman, who was executed by lethal injection, was sentenced to death for a 1981 shootout that killed a Memphis police officer.

The family of Workman did not want his body to go through an autopsy and was asking the state to release his body. Before Workman died, he asked that he not be autopsied because it conflicts with his Seventh Day Adventist religious beliefs. He also asked to be buried without embalming.

The parties have been trying to negotiate autopsy procedures that would be less invasive - similar to those performed for adherents of other religions with strict prohibitions, state medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy told The Tennessean Thursday. That would involve visually inspecting but not removing the organs and relying on biopsies and fluid collection to provide details of the death.

Levy previously testified that the autopsy is needed to make sure the state carried out his lethal injection appropriately. Workman's execution was the first under revised state procedures put in place the week before his lethal injection.

Levy noted during his testimony that the closer to the time of death, the more accurate the information obtained from an autopsy will be. He said evidence from an autopsy loses scientific value as time goes by.

He has said the state can still get some useful information from the autopsy if it were performed after May 24.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)