Tennessee inmate on death row requests execution by electric chair over lethal injection

Edmund Zagorski was sentenced to death over two murders he committed in 1983 and is scheduled to be executed on October 11


                            Tennessee inmate on death row requests execution by electric chair over lethal injection

A Tennessee double murderer who was scheduled to be executed later this week has requested the state for the electric chair rather than a lethal injection, citing the former as the "lesser of two evils." Edmund Zagorski was sentenced to death after murdering John Dotson and Jimmy Porter in 1983 and made the request just two hours before the state's supreme court ruled that the three-drug lethal injection protocol followed in its prisons was constitutional.

According to CBS News, the request was confirmed by Zagorski's attorney Kelley Henry after the supreme court decision cleared the path for his client to be executed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 11. In an emailed statement, Henry wrote, "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," adding that "10-18 minutes of drowning, suffocation, and chemical burning is unspeakable."

Zagorski has requested for the electric chair (Source: Tennessee Department of Corrections)
Zagorski has requested for the electric chair (Source: Tennessee Department of Corrections)

Zagorski was eligible to make the seemingly odd request because of a rule that states death row inmates whose offenses came before January 1999 can pick between the electric chair and lethal injection as their execution method.

News Channel 5 reported that Zagorski killed Dotson and Porter after he lured them with the promise that he would sell them 100 lbs of marijuana. However, his intentions were to rob the men, and when they showed up, he shot them both, slit their throats, and stole their money before fleeing. He then had a shootout with the police before being taken into custody and was handed the death penalty in 1984.

Speaking about the execution, Dotson's wife Marsha said she forgives Zagorski but that "he's just an evil person."  She said, "I have dealt with it for 35 years, and I will be glad when it’s over. I’m just tired. You know, I’m mentally tired. I’m physically tired. I’m just ready for this to all be over so I can start some kind of healing."

Besides asking for the electric chair, Henry will also be requesting for a stay of execution to allow the U.S Supreme Court time to review the case. Zagorski's legal team has argued that the lethal injection violates the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 

A majority at the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that it was not unconstitutional as it could not be proven there was a readily available alternative method that was more humane, a requirement that needs to be fulfilled according to current federal and Tennessee law. Henry argued at the supreme court that a single dose of barbiturate pentobarbital would be a more humane form of execution, but that suggestion was rejected as attorneys for the state said they had been unable to procure the drug because of previous complications in its use.

It is unlikely that the U.S Supreme Court will intervene in Zagorski's case, with the court recently declining to stay the execution of Billy Ray Irick. Irick was condemned for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl and was executed on August 9, making him the first inmate to be executed in the state in close to a decade.

It is unclear if Zagorski's request for the electric chair will be granted as the last time Tennessee executed someone by those means was in 2007. The method is rarely used in other states as well, with the Death Penalty Information Center stating that just 14 of the last 871 inmates executed in the country since 2000 were via the electric chair.