A condemned Tennessee inmate wants to die in the electric chair, rather than by lethal injection, calling electrocution the “lesser of two evils,” his lawyer said.
Edmund George Zagorski, 63, is set to pay the ultimate price on Thursday for the 1983 slayings of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter — 35-year-old victims who were planning to buy 100 pounds of marijuana from Zagorski.
Lethal injection is the primary form of execution in Tennessee, but inmates whose offenses happened before January 1999 may opt for the electric chair.
The Volunteer State is one of nine that still includes the electric chair as a form of execution.
Kelley Henry, Zagorki's defense lawyer, said lethal injection is a long, brutal process that can take up to 18 minutes.
“Faced with the choice of two unconstitutional methods of execution, Mr. Zagorski has indicated that if his execution is to move forward, he believes that the electric chair is the lesser of two evils,” Henry said. “Ten to 18 minutes of drowning, suffocation and chemical burning is unspeakable.”
Use of the electric chair is rare, with just 14 of the 871 executions happening via electrocution since 2000, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last electrocution was in Virginia in January 2013.
A representative for the state’s Department of Corrections could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, last week declined to grant clemency to Zagorski.
Henry said on Tuesday that there is no issue to consider — the state must kill his client in the electric chair.
The condemned man has pending appeals to state and federal courts, claiming lethal injection is cruel and unusual and that Zagorski was the victim of ineffective trial counsel. If all motions fail, he plans to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And if no court steps in, Zagorski is set to die at 8 p.m. EST at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
“We believe that the statute requires the state to honor Mr. Zagorki’s very difficult choice, which he was forced to make as a result of the way that this case has been rushed through the courts,” Henry said in an email.
By late Tuesday afternoon, Henry said he hadn't heard any word back from the state.
Marsha Dotson, the widow of one of the victims, said she doesn’t care how Zagorski dies.
“What’s more inhumane than the way he killed Dale and Jimmy?” she told WTVTV in Nashville.
“He shot them twice in the stomach then went down there and slit their throats. Now come on, how much more cruel and inhumane is that?”