Suit seeks firing squad executions
Option would reduce errors, lawyers say
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lawyers for four Tennessee death row inmates are asking a federal judge to allow them to choose a firing squad as an alternative to Tennessee’s lethal injection or electric chair execution methods.
The inmates filing suit include David Earl Miller, the next man set to die in Tennessee for his crimes.
Miller, sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Lee Standifer, 23, in Knoxville, is scheduled to be executed Dec. 6. The suit asks the court to postpone Miller’s execution until the court can hear the case.
Under Tennessee’s protocol, Miller will need to select his method of execution Tuesday, 30 days before his execution. The lawsuit asks the court to stop state officials temporarily from presenting Miller with that choice.
The lawsuit was filed a day after Edmund Zagorski, 63, was executed via electric chair for the 1983 murders of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter. Zagorski robbed, shot and slit their throats after they sought to buy marijuana from him in Robertson County.
Before his death, Zagorski’s lawyers filed multiple challenges.
They won one: Zagorski was granted the right to choose the chair after his legal challenge to Tennessee’s three-drug lethal injection protocol failed. His lawyers argued death by electrocution would be quicker but maintained that both methods are unconstitutional.
On Aug. 9, the lethal injection execution of Billy Ray Irick took at least 20 minutes to complete.
In the suit, lawyers for Miller and three other death row inmates – Nicholas Todd Sutton, Stephen Michael West and Terry Lynn King – argued that the state’s electric chair “is sure or very likely to inflict a gruesome and torturous death” since the state fails to take into account the difference between individual prisoners that include pain thresholds and the varying amounts of current required to cause unconsciousness.
Miller, Sutton and West had filed suit Aug. 21 seeking alternatives to Tennessee’s lethal drug execution method but voluntarily dismissed their suit amid Zagorski’s ongoing challenges to Tennessee’s execution methods.
The state possesses firearms, ammunition and trained personnel necessary to carry out a firing-squad execution, the suit contends. Big Buck Shooting Range, on the grounds of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, can “easily accommodate what little equipment is required for an execution by firing squad.”
Trained professionals reduce error rates in firing-squad executions, the suit claims.