Ex­e­cu­tion

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

ecu­tion dates set by the state’s high­est court.

Those plans were tem­po­rar­ily halted as a re­sult of pend­ing le­gal chal­lenges to Ten­nessee’s lethal in­jec­tion pro­to­col. Those chal­lenges, which reached the U.S. Supreme Court, ul­ti­mately failed.

Zagorski’s case, in a way, set the stage for Miller. The elec­tric chair had not been used in Ten­nessee in 11 years, and no other state has used it since 2013.

He chose elec­tro­cu­tion, be­liev­ing death would be quicker and less painful than a cock­tail of drugs, but main­tained that both meth­ods are un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Miller ar­gued for the fir­ing squad, sug­gest­ing it was more hu­mane than ei­ther of the state’s two meth­ods. But Ten­nessee law does not al­low a fir­ing squad ex­e­cu­tion.

So Miller fol­lowed Zagorski’s ex­am­ple.

Miller, Zagorski ex­e­cu­tions fol­lowed par­al­lel tracks

The two ex­e­cu­tions were alike in many ways. Both men were strapped down to the chair with leather straps and buck­les. A large sponge, soaked in sa­line so­lu­tion, and a metal hel­met were placed on their heads.

The so­lu­tion dripped down their faces and soaked their chests. Prison staff wiped it off with a towel in their fi­nal mo­ments.

On Thurs­day, when the war­den sig­naled for the first charge of 1,750 volts of elec­tric­ity, Miller’s up­per body raised up in the chair and his el­bows stuck out.

Both clenched their hands into fists. Miller’s pinkies stuck out straight over the arm­rest of the chair. Za­groski’s pinkies were de­scribed as ap­pear­ing to be ei­ther dis­lo­cated or bro­ken.

Nei­ther made any signs of move­ments dur­ing the short pause be­fore the sec­ond jolt. They were quiet. Miller was pro­nounced dead at 7:25 p.m. lo­cal time. Zagorski at 7:26 p.m.

Pro­test­ers be­come fa­mil­iar faces as a new rou­tine emerges

Out­side the prison, pro­test­ers on op­po­site sides of the death penalty de­bate are fa­mil­iar with one an­other as th­ese protests be­come part of their rou­tine. “I will al­ways come,” Rick Laude said. Laude, a death penalty sup­porter, was one of sev­eral pro­test­ers out­side River­bend Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity In­sti­tu­tion on Thurs­day night that stood watch at the pre­vi­ous two ex­e­cu­tions in Nashville this year.

He comes in sup­port of the vic­tim, but also be­cause he thinks the death penalty is a de­ter­rent for crime. Across a fence and an ide­o­log­i­cal di­vide stood Glen Miller, an­other re­peat at­tendee of Ten­nessee’s ex­e­cu­tions in 2018.

“This needs to be abol­ished,” Miller said. “It’s a bro­ken sys­tem. It’s an ex­pen­sive sys­tem. It puts state em­ploy­ees in a ter­ri­ble po­si­tion to have to carry this out and it’s wrong.”

A trend of se­lect­ing the elec­tric chair

The paths to the elec­tric chair for Zagorski and Miller sprung from a na­tional de­bate over lethal in­jec­tion drugs that shows no sign of wan­ing.

The Ten­nessee Supreme Court has up­held the state’s con­tro­ver­sial lethal in­jec­tion cock­tail — three drugs med­i­cal ex­perts said would lead to an ex­tremely painful death.

Both in­mates pre­ferred 35 sec­onds to­tal of elec­tric cur­rents run­ning through their bod­ies to a lethal in­jec­tion that could take up to 20 min­utes to kill them.

In­mates in other states have taken sim­i­lar paths, choos­ing deaths that seemed more vis­cer­ally vi­o­lent in hopes that it would shield them from silent tor­ment as poi­son coursed through their veins.

Ten­nessee’s con­demned are likely to face a sim­i­lar choice.

Lethal in­jec­tion re­mains a fo­cus even dur­ing elec­tro­cu­tions

The spate of in­mates re­ject­ing lethal in­jec­tions is ar­guably a di­rect byprod­uct of the Supreme Court’s re­quire­ments sur­round­ing le­gal chal­lenges.

It is not enough for in­mates chal­leng­ing a par­tic­u­lar drug to prove lethal in­jec­tion leads to tor­ture, which is barred by the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. The high court also re­quires in­mates to find a read­ily avail­able al­ter­na­tive to the drugs.

If chal­lengers fail to meet both re­quire­ments, they fail al­to­gether.

As a re­sult of that stan­dard, the Ten­nessee Supreme Court re­jected the chal­lenge here be­cause they found the in­mates hadn’t pointed to an­other cock­tail of drugs the state could fea­si­bly pur­chase.

In all three ex­e­cu­tions this year, the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Bill Haslam de­clined to in­ter­vene.

Ques­tions re­main about Miller’s mur­der con­vic­tion

It’s still not known how Miller en­tered Stan­difer’s life. But there are guesses.

She was naive and trust­ing. Al­most in­no­cent like a child. He was hand­some. They were the same age. Those who knew Stan­difer said she never turned down a chance to make a new friend.

On May 30, she called her mom be­fore she went to meet Miller.

Po­lice later re­traced their steps: from the YWCA to the Hide­away Lounge, a fa­vorite hang­out of Miller’s, now torn down; to the li­brary on Church Av­enue, where he checked out a book that in­cluded de­scrip­tions of mur­der dur­ing sex; and to the bus sta­tion, where Miller fi­na­gled a taxi ride to a pas­tor’s home in South Knoxville.

It was a Wed­nes­day night, a com­mon day for church prayer meet­ings, so the pas­tor was away. The pair had the house to them­selves.

An au­topsy re­port de­ter­mined he struck her twice with a fire poker and then stabbed her re­peat­edly.

Miller later told po­lice that Stan­difer, whom he had given al­co­hol, grabbed him and sent him into a blind rage when he told her he was leav­ing town.

“I turned around and hit her,” Miller said in a taped con­fes­sion. The blood “just sprayed all over when I hit her . ... She quit breath­ing . ... (I) drug her down­stairs through the base­ment and out through the yard and pulled her over into the woods.”

Miller’s at­tor­neys say years of abuse and men­tal ill­ness fu­eled his crime

Miller’s at­tor­neys have ar­gued he lashed out in a burst of psy­chotic fury, driven by years of pent-up anger from a life­time of abuse.

Miller’s life be­gan with al­co­hol in the womb, sex­ual abuse and beat­ings by fam­ily from age 5, a sui­cide at­tempt at 6 and drug use from age 10.

By age 13, he’d landed in a state re­form school where coun­selors reg­u­larly whipped boys with rub­ber hoses and turned a blind eye to sex­ual mo­lesta­tion.

He later said he couldn’t re­mem­ber a sin­gle per­son from his early years ever telling him they loved him.

Af­ter Miller’s death, Kissinger, his at­tor­ney and pub­lic de­fender, spoke at a news con­fer­ence. He said Miller “cared deeply” for Stan­difer.

“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. “Maybe what I should be do­ing is ask you all that ques­tion. What is it we did here to­day?”

Lee Stan­difer’s mother, He­len Stan­difer, spoke with USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - Ten­nessee af­ter her daugh­ter’s killer was pro­nounced dead.

She re­sponded to Kissinger’s as­ser­tion that Miller was not to blame for her daugh­ter’s death.

“At some point ev­ery­body has to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­tions.”

Mariah Timms and Holly Meyer con­tributed to this re­port.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.