State of Tennessee denies inmate's request to be executed by electric chair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state of Tennessee has denied the request by Tennessee inmate Edmund Zagorski to die in the electric chair, his attorney says, and plans to proceed with plans to execute him Thursday by lethal injection.

Kelley Henry, Zagorski's attorney, said she was considering legal options on Zagorski's behalf. State officials could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Henry had asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay earlier in the day after announcing Monday that he had chosen to die by electrocution rather than lethal injection, stating he believed electrocution to be quicker and less painful.

Zagorski was sentenced in 1984 for the slayings of two men during a drug deal. Prosecutors said Zagorski shot John Dotson and Jimmy Porter, then slit their throats after robbing them in Robertson County in April 1983. The victims had planned to buy marijuana from Zagorski.

The last time Tennessee put someone to death in the electric chair was in 2007.

Henry said Zagorski's decision to ask for electrocution was based on evidence that Tennessee's lethal injection method would cause him 10 to 18 minutes of mental and physical anguish. He believed the electric chair would be quicker.

"It was certainly a difficult decision," Henry said. "It's impossible to know which is better of the two unconstitutional choices."

Henry said Zagorski's choice of death by electrocution over lethal injection was not a ploy to buy time.

Zagorski is one of 32 death row inmates in Tennessee suing over the state's three-drug method of lethal injection. They claim the first drug, midazolam leaves prisoners unable to cry out as their lungs fill with fluid and they experience drowning, suffocation and chemical burning.

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a split decision, ruled against the inmates on Monday. Late Tuesday, Henry asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the merits of the lethal injection case and sought a stay of Zagorski's execution.

In Tennessee, death row inmates whose offenses came before January 1999 can choose either lethal injection or the electric chair. The last time Tennessee put someone to death by electrocution was in 2007.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution of Daryl Holton wrote that a black shroud was placed over his head before a 20-second shock was administered. The shock caused Holton to straighten his back and move his hips up out of the chair before he slumped back. There was a 15-second pause before he was given a second shock that lasted 15 seconds.

A report from the state medical examiner later found that Holton had suffered minor burns to his head and legs but there were no signs of the severe burning and other major injuries that had been seen in some past electrocutions.

A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction did not immediately respond to messages asking whether the state will be ready to use the electric chair Thursday, but she did send out an email stating Zagorski has been moved to death watch, a normal procedure during the three-day period before an execution in Tennessee.

Gov. Bill Haslam already has said he won't intervene in Zagorski's case.