A death row inmate convicted of brutally murdering his estranged wife and her two teenage sons has received a temporary reprieve after Tennessee put a pause on lethal injections.

On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, announced a halt to executions until a review into its lethal injection practices is completed. The move will put a temporary stay on the scheduled execution of Oscar Franklin Smith, who he had previously refused to grant clemency for.

“I review each death penalty case and believe it is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes,” said Lee. “However, the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Correction to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.”

The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton and it will focus on three points: clarity of lethal injection guidelines shared, circumstances related to the testing injections for only potency and sterility over endotoxins, and unspecified considerations from Tennessee correctional staff.

According to Lee’s office, the review will last through 2022 and no executions will take place until it is completed.

The move is an unexpected reprieve for Smith who had previously pushed Lee to grant him commutation after sitting on death row for well over 30 years.

In 1989, Smith murdered his estranged wife, Judith Robirds Smith, 35, and her sons from another marriage, Chad Burnett, 16, and Jason Burnett, 13. He was sentenced a year later to death after prosecutors made their case against Smith based on forensic evidence that included a bloody awl and fingerprints. Despite efforts by Smith's attorneys to poke holes in this evidence, the jury was unpersuaded.

Smith, now 72, is currently Tennessee’s oldest inmate on death row and his execution would have been the first to take place since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a moratorium on them.

His execution date was scheduled for April 21 and was predated by a series of last-minute filings by his lawyers, who continued to question the evidence used to convict him. Their appeals to Lee and the courts were rejected.

In Tennessee, inmates are offered the option of lethal injection or the electric chair. Lethal injection is the default method used for execution in the state.