The execution of Tennessee Death Row inmate Edmund Zagorski is scheduled to take place today at seven o’clock this evening. This morning, his defense team filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the United States to try and halt the proceedings.
Zagorski Chose Electric Chair Over Lethal Injection as Method of Execution
Tennessee has two legal methods of execution: the electric chair and lethal injection. Zagorski chose to avoid lethal injection because of the fear that he would experience 10-18 minutes of “utter terror and agony” as compared to electrocution, which would kill him in less than a minute.
Legally, Tennessee’s condemned to die before January 1, 1999, have the legal right to choose their execution method; Zagorski was sentenced to death in 1984.
After Zagorski chose electrocution, Tennessee proceeded to prepare for its first electric chair execution since 1960, except for the 2007 electric chair execution of Daryl Holton in 2007.
SCOTUS Petition to Halt Electric Chair Execution Today
Today, Edmund Zagorski is petitioning SCOTUS to stop the electric chair execution, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
He argues for a stay based upon several reasons, including the following (emphasis added):
- Mr. Zagorski initially attempted to litigate the unconstitutionality of the electric chair in 2015 and was prevented from doing so by the state’s claim that the issue was not ripe. West v. Schofield, 468 S.W.3d 482, 485 fn. 2 (Tenn. 2015).
- He brought this challenge immediately when it became ripe. Nelson v. Campell, 541 U.S. 637 (2004)); Gomez v. United States Dist. Court for Northern Dist. of Cal., 503 U.S. 653, 654 (1992) (per curiam)).
- Mr. Zagorski has shown a significant possibility of success on the merits. See Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 895–896 (1983). See also Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S.968, 972 (1997) (per curiam) (preliminary injunction not granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion).
- The threat of irreparable harm weighs heavily in his favor where absent a stay he will be electrocuted – a method that this Court was on the brink of declaring unconstitutional in Bryan before the state of Florida mooted the question.
- The public interest also weighs in favor of a stay as this issue is likely to repeat in light of the growing trend of death row inmates who face death insurmountable challenges to barbaric methods of execution because of the lower court’s (mis)application of the alternative-method-of-execution pleading requirement of Glossip.
- The state’s interest in carrying out this capital sentence against this inmate – who has been a model prisoner for 34 years, who save the life of a prison guard, and who 6 of the original jurors support a sentence of life without parole is — not great….
- The state coerced Mr. Zagorski’s election of an unconstitutional method of execution. … Equity demands a stay of execution.
Note: the Application is presented to Justice Sonia Sotomayor but the SCOTUS docket states that the request for the stay is being heard by Justice Kagan.
Florida Also Has Electric Chair for Electrocution
Along with several other states, like Tennessee, the State of Florida recognizes electrocution as an alternative method for execution other than lethal injection. For information on Florida’s electric chair, see:
- Florida Death Row Inmate Wayne Doty Wants to Die By Electric Chair
- Florida’s Electric Chair: Will We Return to This?
- Florida Execution by Firing Squads or Electric Chair; Legislation Seeks to End Lethal Injection Method of Execution.