A Tennessee inmate’s last phrases have been “let’s rock” moments earlier than he turned the primary man executed within the electrical chair in that state since 2007, put to loss of life Thursday for taking pictures two males and slitting their throats throughout a drug deal many years in the past.
Edmund Zagorski, 63, was pronounced useless at 7:26 p.m. Thursday at a Nashville maximum-security jail, officers mentioned.
Requested if he had any final phrases within the loss of life chamber, the inmate mentioned, “Let’s rock” shortly earlier than the execution was carried out.
A reporter who witnessed the scene mentioned at a post-execution information briefing that Zagorski often smiled whereas strapped down, simply earlier than a sponge was positioned on his head after which his face was shrouded. The witnesses mentioned the inmate’s fists then clenched when the electrical energy was utilized and his physique appeared to rise. He didn’t transfer as soon as the process was over.
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The reporter mentioned Zagorski’s lawyer was nodding, smiling and tapping her coronary heart simply earlier than the execution received underway. When requested about her actions, Kelly Henry, mentioned afterward: “I informed him once I put my hand over my coronary heart, that was me holding him in my coronary heart.”
She mentioned Zagorski informed her the very last thing he needed to see was her smiling face, and so she made an effort to smile at him earlier than the shroud was put over his face.
In choosing the electrical chair over a deadly injection as Tennessee allowed him, Zagorski had argued it might be a faster and fewer painful approach to die. He turned solely the second particular person to die within the electrical chair in Tennessee since 1960. Nationwide, solely 14 different individuals have been put to loss of life within the electrical chair since 2000, together with a Virginia inmate in 2013.
The execution was carried out shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court docket on Thursday night denied the inmate’s request for a keep. Zagorski’s attorneys had argued it was unconstitutional to drive him to decide on between the electrical chair and deadly injection.
The state got here near administering an injection to Zagorski three weeks in the past, a plan halted by Tennessee’s governor when Zagorski exercised his proper to request the electrical chair.
The Supreme Court docket’s assertion mentioned Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the dissenting voice on Thursday, noting Zagorski’s tough resolution to go for the electrical chair. In Tennessee, condemned inmates whose crimes occurred earlier than 1999 can select the electrical chair — one in every of a handful of states that enable such a alternative.
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“He did so not as a result of he thought that it was a humane approach to die, however as a result of he thought that the three-drug cocktail that Tennessee had deliberate to make use of was even worse,” Sotomayor mentioned within the assertion. “Given what most individuals consider the electrical chair, it’s laborious to think about a extra placing testomony — from an individual with extra at stake — to the respectable fears raised by the lethal-injection medicine that Tennessee makes use of.”
Zagorski was convicted of a April 1983 double slaying. Prosecutors mentioned Zagorski shot John Dotson and Jimmy Porter after which slit their throats after robbing the 2 males after they got here to him to purchase marijuana.
The U.S. Supreme Court docket has by no means dominated on whether or not use of the electrical chair violates the eighth Modification ban on merciless and strange punishment, nevertheless it got here shut about 20 years in the past after a sequence of botched electrocutions in Florida. Throughout two executions within the 1990s smoke and flames shot from the condemned inmates’ heads. In 1999, blood spilled from underneath an inmate’s masks. Shortly afterward, the Supreme Court docket agreed to listen to a problem to the electrical chair. However the case was dropped when Florida made deadly injection its main execution technique.
Republican Gov. Invoice Haslam declined to intervene in Zagorski’s case regardless of receiving pleas from former jurors who convicted the inmate, correctional officers and Zagorski’s priest.
On the time of Zagorski’s conviction, Tennessee juries weren’t given the choice of contemplating life with out parole. Each state now requires juries to weigh that choice in loss of life penalty circumstances.
Tennessee’s electrical chair was inspected on Oct. 10 and located to fulfill the factors for an execution, state paperwork present.
The system was initially rebuilt within the late 1980s by a self-taught execution professional who had publicly fearful the system would malfunction on Thursday. It’s solely been used to execute one particular person earlier than: Daryl Holton, in 2007.
Earlier than Holton, the final particular person to die in Tennessee’s electrical chair was William Tines in 1960.
Zagorski had been on loss of life row 34 years, the second-longest in Tennessee.
Protesters held vigils Thursday in Knoxville and Memphis, and outdoors the Nashville maximum-security jail the place Zagorski was executed Thursday. There some raised a banner with the phrases: “A Free Tennessee is Execution-Free.”