Inmate Opts For Electrocution After Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection | Nashville Public Radio

Inmate Opts For Electrocution After Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection

Oct 8, 2018

Updated 10:30 p.m.

 

Attorneys for Edmund Zagorski say he'd rather be put to death by the electric chair than Tennessee's current method of lethal injection. The convicted murderer is scheduled for execution Thursday night.

Within hours of the Tennessee Supreme Court upholding the state's three-drug protocol on Monday, Zagorski's attorneys say they notified prison officials of his preference.

 

"Faced with the choice of two unconstitutional methods of execution, Mr. Zagorski has indicated that if his execution is to move forward, he believes that the electric chair is the lesser of two evils," writes federal public defender Kelley Henry. "

 

She describes the existing lethal injection process as "10 to 18 minutes of drowning, suffocation and chemical burning."

A Tennessee death row inmate was last executed by electric chair in 2007, and afterward, his attorney, David Raybin, said that the "barbaric" practice should never be used again. Prior to that, it had been 40 years since the last electrocution in the state.

The Tennessee legislature reinstated the electric chair as a backup to lethal injection in 2014.

 

Reported earlier

 

Tennessee Supreme Court Affirms Lethal Injection Method, Clearing Path For Looming Executions

 

Edmund Zagorski was convicted for the 1983 slaying of two men who were trying to buy a load of marijuana from Zagorski. He also tried to kill a police officer while on the run.
Credit courtesy TDOC

Tennessee's Supreme Court has affirmed the state's three-drug method for putting prisoners to death. An order was released Monday afternoon, clearing the way for several upcoming executions, including one this week.

Nearly 30 death row inmates had argued that a one-drug protocol, using only pentobarbital, would be easier to carry out and less painful for prisoners. Several states currently use this method. But in a 4-1 decision, Tennessee's Supreme Court said the inmates did not prove pentobarbital could easily be obtained.

"We conclude that the plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of showing availability of their proposed alternative method of execution," Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins wrote on behalf of the majority.

Justice Sharon Lee wrote her own 9-page dissent.

Download: Majority opinion and dissenting opinion

Lee says executions in Tennessee are "cloaked in secrecy," which made it nearly impossible for inmates to know the availability of pentobarbital. And she argues that the pending executions should have been put on hold so the high court wasn't forced to rush a ruling out in less than a week.

Edmund Zagorski, convicted of a double murder in 1984, is scheduled to die Thursday.

Public defenders working on the case call the split decision "unfortunate" and say they plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.