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May 7, 2015

Electrifying Tennessee fight over electric chair as back up execution method

BuzzFeed has this interesting new article about an interesting legal fight unfolding in Tennessee.  This extensive headline provides the basics: "Tennessee Officials Fight Inmates’ Attempt To Challenge Electric Chair Plans: The electric chair is Tennessee’s plan B if the state can’t get ahold of lethal drugs. The inmates argue it’s unconstitutional, but the state argues that they can’t challenge it yet."  Here are some details from the start of the article:

Can death-row inmates challenge the constitutionality of electrocution?  The Tennessee Supreme Court will soon decide.  

Death penalty states once phased out the electric chair in favor of drugs — for humane reasons.  Now that drugs have become hard to obtain, states like Tennessee have turned to older execution methods like the chair as a backup.

On Wednesday, the state court will weigh whether death-row inmates can challenge the method’s constitutionality.  Thirty-four inmates allege electrocution is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment — that the electric chair disfigures the body and is an affront to evolving standards of decency.

But Tennessee has pushed to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the inmates can’t challenge the method because none of them are actually scheduled to face electrocution.

Tennessee’s preferred method is lethal injection, using pentobarbital made from a secret compounding pharmacy.  Lawmakers passed a law last year that makes electrocution the contingency plan if either drug makers or the courts make lethal injection impossible.

“The[y] are asking the court in this case to… consider hypothetical situations involving uncertain or contingent future events that may or may not occur as anticipated or, indeed, may not occur at all,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office wrote.

May 7, 2015 at 11:19 AM | Permalink


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Sounds reasonable but if pressed they probably have a decent chance on the challenge of electrocution.

Posted by: Joe | May 7, 2015 11:38:43 AM

I put the chances of a successful challenge to electrocution as being high enough that I am amazed that states would even consider it. Electrocution is simply begging for far more prolonged litigation than is present with other options.

Unlike, for instance, hanging which I do think the condemned would have a hard time succeeding against. And even more so nitrogen asphyxiation.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 7, 2015 11:44:00 PM

I think hanging has a better shot partially because it has been used fairly recently -- but think it also has a shot to be declared cruel and unusual.

Electrocution has more of a chance for national abolition. Still, hanging has an outdated, somewhat unsavory feeling to it & I think various state (outside of the West particularly) courts might strike it down. Thinking nitrogen asphyxiation will get some more support as the latest "improvement."

It is interesting that in Baze v. Rees, CJ Roberts said:

"The firing squad, hanging, the electric chair, and the gas chamber have each in turn given way to more humane methods, culminating in today’s consensus on lethal injection."

Curious listing. Quite questionable.

Posted by: Joe | May 8, 2015 10:13:36 AM

I would chose electrocution, when the lawyer decides to eradicate me after finishing my book on the profession. Loss of consciousness is at the speed of electricity through fat (the brain). All the fires and smoke may disturb the audience. The condemned hates most of them anyway, so upsetting them is a benefit. He has passed on in milliseconds.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2015 12:56:19 PM

The States are the parent. The federal government is the child. The States made and own this country. They may ignore Supreme Court decisions interfering with legislation. Judicial review is prohibited by Article I, Section 1.

If federal agents try to enforce a decision, arrest then , taser them, throw them out of the state.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2015 1:04:35 PM

Firing squad. Manly. Humane. But there should be a requirement that the squad be headed up by the Governor who fires the first shot. Five other shooters must include the Speaker of the House, Pro Tem of the Senate, Chief of the State Supreme Court, Clerk of the Circuit Court of the County of the conviction, and Pastor of the victim's church. The Governor should have the right to grant clemency to life without parole up to the moment he fires the first shot. Do this by Constitutional provision. Governor to only serve one term as Governor.

Posted by: Liberty1st | May 9, 2015 3:02:14 PM

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