Tennessee death row inmates want firing squad as execution alternative

Credit: Tennessee Department of Corrections

Credit: Tennessee Department of Corrections

Lawyers for four inmates on Tennessee's death row are seeking the firing squad as an alternative to the state's execution methods of lethal injection and the electric chair, The Tennessean reported Monday.

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The inmates who filed suit in federal court late Friday included David Earl Miller, scheduled to be executed Dec. 6 for the 1981 rape and murder of Lee Standifer, the newspaper reported. The other inmates are Nicholas Todd Sutton, Stephen Michael West and Terry Lynn King.

The lawsuit asks the court to postpone Miller's execution until his case can be heard, The Tennessean reported. Tennessee’s execution protocol stipulates that Miller will be asked to choose his method of execution 30 days before the sentence is carried out. That means Miller must make his choice Tuesday, the newspaper reported. The lawsuit wants the court to stop state officials from presenting Miller with that choice.

The lawsuit was filed a day after 63-year-old Edmund George Zagorski was executed by electric chair for a pair of 1983 murders.

Zagorski won a legal action to bypass Tennessee’s lethal injection execution, winning the right to die by the electric chair on Nov. 1.

Trained professionals reduce error rates in executions by firing squad, the lawsuit claims.

"The firing squad significantly reduces a substantial risk of unnecessary and severe pain when compared with" Tennessee's three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections, sparing the men suffocation, internal chemical burn and paralysis, The Tennessean reported, citing the lawsuit.

Only Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah formally authorize the use of a firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. It was last used in the United States in 2010 by Utah officials.

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