The state of Tennessee denied a condemned man's desire to die in the electric chair, claiming he waited too long to make his macabre selection — but an appeals court late Wednesday stayed his execution on an appeal that argued ineffective counsel.
Double-murderer Edmund George Zagorski, 63, had been scheduled to die Thursday night at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, in an execution he wanted to happen by electrocution.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Wednesday night granted a stay of execution sought by his attorneys, who argued that he had inadequate assistance of counsel during his original trial.
It was a split decision, with two judges acknowledging Zagorski "faces an uphill battle," but ruling that "at a minimum, due process requires that Zagorski be afforded an opportunity to present his appeal to us," and another judge dissenting.
Lethal injection is the primary form of execution in the Volunteer State, but inmates whose offenses happened before January 1999 may opt for the electric chair. Zagorski killed two 35-year-old men in a drug deal gone bad in 1983.
But the state told Zagorki's legal team he needed to have made the electric chair option by the close of business on Sept. 27. Defense lawyers didn't file for the election chair until Monday.
Instead of electricity, Zagorski will be executed with a combination of Midazolam, Vecuronium Bromide and Potassium Chloride, according to Debra K. Inglis, chief counsel for the Department of Corrections.
Zagorski's defense had been challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection, and hours after the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against the killer on Monday, he chose to die in the electric chair, his lawyers said.
The condemned man's legal team filed an emergency petition in federal court in Nashville on Wednesday, demanding he be allowed to die in the electric chair.
"The idea that the chamber requires two weeks for reconfiguration is ludicrous," Zagorski's lawyer Kelley Henry wrote. "Unless the prison loses power, they can carry out an electrocution."