NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Tennessee used its electric chair for the first time in 47 years on Wednesday to execute a man who killed his three sons and their half-sister.
Daryl Holton, 45, was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. EDT at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution after receiving two jolts of electricity, prison authorities said.
His attorney, David Raybun, said after the execution that Holton was now “free of the demons that haunted him.”
When he was asked if he had any last words, Holton replied only “Yeah, I do,” and said nothing further. He had eaten a last meal of riblets on a bun, vegetables, baked beans, cake and iced tea.
Holton had methodically killed his children and their half-sister in a Shelbyville, Tennessee, garage on November 30, 1997, following a lengthy custody battle with his ex-wife.
Lined up on the promise of a Christmas surprise, the three youngsters, aged 4 to 12, were shot in the back with a rifle.
Holton, who said in newspaper interviews he supported the death penalty, dropped earlier appeals and refused to fight his sentence, opting for electrocution rather than lethal injection.
Tennessee offers the electric chair as an option for those who committed their crimes before 1999, when lethal injection became the state’s primary method of execution.
Death penalty opponents contended Tennessee’s electric chair, which the state modified in 1989, is unreliable. State officials insisted the chair has been tested successfully several times.
It was last used in Tennessee in 1960 to execute William Tines, who was condemned for rape.
Electrocution was first introduced in New York in 1888 as a more humane method of execution than hanging, but there have been horrific instances of inmates catching on fire, multiple jolts being needed to kill, and bones being broken by convulsing limbs.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 there have been 153 inmates executed in the electric chair, most recently a condemned murderer in Virginia in July 2006. Holton’s was the 1,097th U.S. execution since 1976.
Holton was the second person executed by Tennessee this year and the 40th U.S. execution so far in 2007.
The electric chair is now the sole method of execution only in Nebraska, while nine other states have it as an option or for crimes committed before a certain date.
Holton’s execution was delayed when Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered a review of the state’s capital punishment protocol because of a number of problematic executions by lethal injection carried out in other states.