Ten­nessee elec­tro­cutes sec­ond inmate in 2 months

The Daily Courier - - WORLD -

NASHVILLE — A Ten­nessee inmate be­came the sec­ond per­son to die in the state’s elec­tric chair in just over a month Thurs­day, nearly two decades af­ter Ten­nessee adopted lethal in­jec­tion as its pre­ferred method of ex­e­cu­tion.

David Earl Miller, 61, was pro­nounced dead at 7:25 p.m. at a Nashville max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison.

Miller was con­victed of killing 23-year-old Lee Stan­difer in 1981 in Knoxville and had been on death row for 36 years, the long­est of any inmate in Ten­nessee.

At 7:12 p.m. and af­ter Miller had been strapped into the chair, Ten­nessee Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion of­fi­cials raised a blind that had cov­ered the win­dows to a wit­ness room. Miller looked straight ahead, his eyes seem­ingly un­fo­cused and his face ex­pres­sion­less.

War­den Tony Mays asked Miller if he had any last words. He spoke but his words were un­in­tel­li­gi­ble. Mays asked him to re­peat him­self, and his words were still dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand, but his at­tor­ney, Stephen Kissinger, said he un­der­stood them to be, “Beats be­ing on death row.”

Of­fi­cers then placed a large damp sponge on Miller’s shaved head to help con­duct the cur­rent be­fore strap­ping a cap to his head. Wa­ter ran down Miller’s face and was tow­eled off by an of­fi­cer. Miller looked down and did not look back up be­fore of­fi­cers placed a shroud over his face.

Af­ter some­one con­nected an elec­tri­cal ca­ble to the chair, Miller’s body stiff­ened as the first jolt of cur­rent hit him. His body then re­laxed be­fore a sec­ond jolt came less than a minute later. Again, Miller’s body stiff­ened and then re­laxed. The blinds were pulled down and an an­nounce­ment of the time of death came over an in­ter­com.

No wit­nesses from ei­ther Miller’s fam­ily or Stan­difer’s were present for the ex­e­cu­tion, but Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion spokes­woman Neysa Taylor read a brief state­ment from a woman from Ohio who did not want her name given.

Taylor read, “Af­ter a long line of vic­tims he has left, it is time to be done. It is time for him to pay for what he has done to Lee.”

Miller had been on a date with Stan­difer, who had mental dis­abil­i­ties, and the two were seen to­gether around town the evening of May 20, 1981. The young woman’s body was found beaten and stabbed the next day in the yard of the home where Miller had been liv­ing.

Ear­lier on Thurs­day, Gov. Bill Haslam re­fused Miller’s re­quest to com­mute his sen­tence to life in prison. Miller’s pe­ti­tion for clemency said Miller had been phys­i­cally abused as a child by his step­fa­ther and had been phys­i­cally and sex­u­ally abused by his mother. The pe­ti­tion ar­gued that ev­i­dence of the trauma and mental ill­ness it caused should have been pre­sented to a jury.

As­sis­tant Fed­eral Com­mu­nity De­fender Kissinger spoke briefly af­ter the ex­e­cu­tion.

“(Miller) cared deeply for Lee Stan­difer, and she would be alive to­day if it weren’t for a sadis­tic step­fa­ther and a mother who vi­o­lated ev­ery trust that a son should have,” Kissinger said.

Both Miller and inmate Ed­mund Zagorski be­fore him chose the elec­tric chair over lethal in­jec­tion, a process pro­po­nents said would be pain­less and hu­mane.

But the in­mates ar­gued in court that Ten­nessee’s cur­rent mi­da­zo­lam-based method causes a pro­longed and tor­tur­ous death. They pointed to the Au­gust ex­e­cu­tion of Billy Ray Irick, which took around 20 min­utes and dur­ing which he coughed and huffed be­fore turn­ing a dark pur­ple.

Their case was thrown out, largely be­cause a judge said they failed to prove a more hu­mane al­ter­na­tive was avail­able. Zagorski was ex­e­cuted Nov. 1.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Mem­bers of the me­dia pre­pare to wit­ness the ex­e­cu­tion of Ten­nessee death row inmate David Earl Miller out­side River­bend Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity In­sti­tu­tion Thurs­day.


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