Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection Protocol Used to Carry Out its Murders - may Cause 10-18 minutes of Drowning, Suffocation & Burning Prior to Death. Execution Set for Thursday

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From [HERE] The Tennessee Supreme Court [above] on Tuesday upheld the state’s lethal injection protocol over a challenge by several death row inmates who argued the three-drug injection inflicted unnecessary pain.

In July the Tennessee Department of Corrections revised the protocol to eliminate pentobarbital, providing for a three-drug injection now including midazolam to provide pain relief.

The 33 inmates that filed the complaint have each been sentenced to death in Tennessee, with three scheduled for execution in 2018. They assert that the eliminated drug pentobarbital offered a quicker and less painful method for execution, making the revisions cruel and unusual under both the US and Tennessee Constitutions.

In the ruling, the court clarified that the claimants did not meet the burden established by the Supreme Court in 2015 in Glossip v. Gross in which they had to prove an available alternative. The court also found that the facts do not violate the constitution as to constitute torture or deliberate infliction of pain.

Although Blacks make up on 17% of Tennessee’s entire population they are 46% of its death row population. [MORE]

Ignoring declarations by six jurors in Edmund Zagorski’s 1984 trial that they would have spared Zagorski if they could have sentenced him to life without parole, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam rejected Zagorski’s petition for clemency on October 5, 2018. In conjunction with the Tennessee Supreme Court's October 8 ruling upholding the constitutionality of the state's lethal-injection protocol, Haslam’s decision moved the state closer to executing Zagorski on October 11.

At the time of Zagorski’s trial, Tennessee law required jurors in death-penalty cases to choose between sentencing a defendant to death or risk the possibility that he could later be released on parole. The jurors in Zagorski’s case submitted sworn declarations in support of clemency, saying that they would have sentenced him to life without possibility of parole, rather than the death penalty, if they had been given the no-parole option.

Juror Michael Poole told Nashville Scene, “Our concern was that at some point in time maybe this man would be released and could actually be out in society and commit such a crime again. ... [Zagorski] has paid a significant price up to this point, I feel, and the continuation of his imprisonment until he dies of natural causes I think is punishment enough.” Nancy Arnold, another juror, agreed. “[A]s far as the law was concerned, all we could do was what we did. We had no choice of life without parole. I would have definitely done that if it had been available.”

Zagorski’s clemency plea was also supported by correctional officials who said he has been a model prisoner and has reformed during his 34 years on death row. Despite those statements, Gov. Haslam denied clemency, writing that “the jury in Zagorski’s case heard the evidence at trial and rendered a unanimous verdict in accordance with the law at the time and their duty as jurors. Ten courts, including the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States, have reviewed and upheld the jury’s verdict and sentence, and the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the addition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option does not affect previous verdicts.”

In response to the October 8th ruling, Zagorski requested that the state execute him with the electric chair, saying, “I do not want to be subjected to the torture of the current lethal injection method.” In a statement, Zagorski’s lawyer, assistant federal defender Kelley Henry, said the Tennessee high court decision had left Zagorski to choose between “two unconstitutional methods of execution.” Describing the prospect of “10-18 minutes of drowning, suffocation, and chemical burning” as “unspeakable,” Henry said Zagorski found the electric chair to be “the lesser of two evils.” Zagorski is appealing the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision.