Edmund Zagorski was executed by electric chair Thursday in a Nashville, Tenn., prison after challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection drugs and then choosing instead to die by electrocution.
When asked whether he had any last words, Zagorski, 63, simply replied, “Let’s rock.”
Zagorksi was the first man executed in the electric chair in Tennessee since 2007. He had been convicted in April 1983 of murdering two men — robbing them and slitting their throats during a drug deal.
His execution came after a flurry of legal maneuvering in recent weeks to delay the action. The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday night rejected an appeal to halt the execution. Zagorski had asked the high court to consider whether it was unconstitutional to force him to choose between lethal injection and lethal injection.
He requested the electric chair in early October after the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the use of lethal injection drugs was permissible. His federal public defender, Kelley Henry, said that Zagorski chose the electric chair because Tennessee’s three-drug lethal injection protocol “is certain torture” and death by electrocution would be quicker and less painful.
In a dissent, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor commented on Zagorski’s decision to request the electric chair.
“He did so not because he thought that it was a humane way to die, but because he thought that the three-drug cocktail that Tennessee had planned to use was even worse,” Sotomayor said in the statement quoted by the Associated Press. “Given what most people think of the electric chair, it’s hard to imagine a more striking testament — from a person with more at stake — to the legitimate fears raised by the lethal-injection drugs that Tennessee uses.”
The AP also reported that witnesses said, during the execution, “the inmate’s fists … clenched when the electricity was applied and his body appeared to rise. He did not move once the procedure was over.”
Zagorski was the second inmate executed in the electric chair in Tennessee since 1960. He had been on death row for 34 years, the second-longest in Tennessee.
The execution renews the debate in that state over capital punishment as some experts say that more condemned inmates could also request the electric chair.
The longest current member of Tennessee’s death row, 61-year-old David Earl Miller, is scheduled to be executed in December.