US halts injection execution of inmate who wants electric chair
A Tennessee man sentenced to death for a double murder won a last-minute appeal Wednesday to stop his execution by lethal injection, after insisting the state should use the electric chair.
Edmund Zagorski, 63, was sentenced to death in 1984 after slitting the throats of two men who had reneged on a promise to sell him drugs.
He asked to be put to death via the electric chair, but Tennessee's prison authorities rejected the request.
Zagorski's lawyers then launched an emergency appeal in federal court to demand the chair be used for the execution, which was scheduled for Thursday in Nashville.
But the appeals court on Wednesday said the execution must be stayed while his appeal is considered.
In Tennessee, people condemned to death before 1999 have the right to choose between the two methods of capital punishment.
But they must do so at least two months before the execution, according to the state department of corrections.
According to one of his lawyers, Kelley Henry, Zagorski was late in making his choice known because he was awaiting the results of a motion to bar the use of a three-drug cocktail, including the powerful but controversial sedative midazolam, in Tennessee executions.
The state supreme court only rejected that suit on Monday, forcing Zagorski to "choose between two absolutely barbaric methods of death," Henry said.
"The state's three-drug protocol is certain torture," she charged.
"Mr Zagorski's lungs would fill with fluid as the lining is burned away by acid. He would be paralyzed, then burned alive chemically from within," she added, noting the procedure would cause pain for 10-18 minutes.
Tennessee is one of nine US states that still uses the electric chair for executions.
It has only been used nationwide for 14 executions out of nearly 900 since 2000, and has not been used at all since 2013.
The southeastern state had not carried out an execution since 2009 until this past August, when it used the three-drug combination to put to death a man convicted of raping and murdering a child in 1986.