Tennessee prisoner chooses electric chair over lethal injection

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(This is a developing story. We will continue to update it as events unfold.)

Yesterday, just a few hours before Edmund Zagorski was scheduled to be executed, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted him a 10-day reprieve. It was just one of many significant developments in a week full of legal rulings and decisions.

In fact, Haslam’s reprieve was in response to a federal district judge’s earlier order barring the state from executing Zagorski by lethal injection after Zagorski had indicated he preferred to die in the electric chair. He preferred the latter because, his lawyer had said in an emailed statement, “10-18 minutes of drowning, suffocation, and chemical burning is unspeakable.”

But the state refused his request. Although the law permits death row prisoners who were convicted before 1999 to choose between lethal injection and the electric chair, prison officials said he had decided too late, and his only option was lethal injection. But District Judge Aleta Trauger then ruled Zagorski was entitled to a hearing on his request.

Haslam said the ‘reprieve will give the state enough time to prepare for an execution via electric chair,” the Washington Post reported

Finally, a few hours after Haslam announced Zagorski’s reprieve, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a stay the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had granted in Zagorski’s case on Wednesday, based on the merits of his claims that he received inadequate assistance of counsel during his trial and sentencing (with Justices Breyer and Sotomayor dissenting).

The 63-year-old Zagorski was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter in April 1983 during a drug deal.

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