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Tennessee Death Row Inmates Sue to Block Electric Chair

Eleven condemned prisoners say the state's new backup method for executions could cause excruciating pain.

Death row inmates in Tennessee are suing to stop the state from using the electric chair as its backup execution method. Papers filed Friday argue that the state's testing method for the chair is inadequate and that electrocution does not necessarily cause instantaneous death. "A prisoner that remains alive, conscious, and sensate for some period of time during an electrocution execution will experience excruciating pain and suffering," the suit says.

In May, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law allowing prison officials to use the electric chair when unable to get drugs for lethal injections, making it the only state that forces electrocution on inmates; other states allow the condemned to choose the chair. "Tennessee took a huge step back when it reinstated the electric chair," federal public defender Kelley Henry said, noting that courts in Nebraska and Georgia have already declared the method unconstitutional. The Tennessee attorney general's office said it was reviewing the court papers and had no immediate comment.


— Tracy Connor