Tennessee reinstates electric chair as death penalty option

NASHVILLE, Tennessee Fri May 23, 2014 10:08am EDT

Aaron Dickson, President of the Board of Directors of the Texas Prison Museum stands on November 19, 2002 with ''Old Sparky,'' the Texas electric chair in which 361 killers were executed. - RTXLMWL

Aaron Dickson, President of the Board of Directors of the Texas Prison Museum stands on November 19, 2002 with ''Old Sparky,'' the Texas electric chair in which 361 killers were executed. - RTXLMWL

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Tennessee's electric chair, last used in 2007, is now an option for executions in the state if lethal injection drugs are unavailable, following a bill that was signed by the governor on Thursday.

The law was drawn up as various states were encountering difficulty in obtaining drugs for lethal injections because many pharmaceutical firms, mainly in Europe, object to their use in executions. The bill sailed through the state's legislature.

"It gives us another option out there. We've had so many problems with lethal injection," said the bill's House sponsor Representative Dennis Powers, who confirmed the bill was signed by Governor Bill Haslam.

Cade Cothren, spokesman for the state's House Republican Caucus, also confirmed the bill had been signed. The governor's office did not respond to repeated calls and emails from Reuters seeking confirmation and additional information.

Richard Dieter, executive director for the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks executions, said that court battles would likely erupt if an inmate were sentenced to the chair.

"There certainly have been some gruesome electrocutions in the past and that would weigh on courts' minds," Dieter said when the bill passed the senate in April.

Lethal injection is the primary execution method in all states that have capital punishment, but some states allow inmates the option of electrocution, hanging, firing squad or the gas chamber.

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. issued an advisory opinion stating that electrocution is constitutionally defensible as an execution method earlier this year.

Tennessee last executed an inmate in 2009 and the next execution is scheduled for October. The state corrections department has said it is confident of being able to secure drugs when needed. It has also said its electric chair is operational.

(Editing by Curtis Skinner and Stephen Coates)

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Comments (7)
REnninga wrote:
It is baffling the amount of time and effort that Republican controlled legislative assemblies and Republican Governors are expending toward ensuring that their states will not be inconvenienced by not being able to continue to execute human beings at the same pace to which they have become accustomed. It is downright ghoulish and creepy!

It is also baffling why the Republican Party would try so hard to embrace this peculiar and highly uncivilized blood lust of Capital punishment — which nearly all of the civilized world has already banned — as an official party platform plank?

After all, by definition “Capital Punishment” is merely “premeditated murder” committed by the state, in our name.

May 23, 2014 2:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:
A justice system based on advocacy ‘debate’ is inherently imperfect. How then, is an irrevocable capital penalty justifiable?

May 23, 2014 4:51am EDT  --  Report as abuse
UrDrighten wrote:
The deepest hypocrisy of this scramble for capital punishment is that those who advocate it the most rabidly are the most fervent devotees of Jesus Christ, who advocated mercy for even the most heinous crimes. I cannot help but wonder what sort of forgiveness these execution fanatics expect to receive from their savior.

Well, if you judge another by the measure of death, I suppose that’s the measure you’ll receive…

May 23, 2014 12:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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