After Outrage Over Inhumane Executions, Tennessee Will Force Inmates Into Electric Chair
Many were outraged after a botched execution in Oklahoma and states are now looking for new ways to get around the European-led boycott of execution drug sales. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has a novel idea to fix the problem (if it was the 1890s) as he has signed a bill to force inmates into the electric chair if the state can’t get lethal injection drugs.
In April, Tennessee’s legislature overwhelmingly approved the move with the State Senate voting 23-3 and the House voting 68-13.
Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center Richard Dieter says this move makes Tennessee the first state to bring back the electric chair without giving inmates an option. Dieter said “there are states that allow inmates to choose, but it is a very different matter for a state to impose a method like electrocution. No other state has gone so far.”
Dieter says “no state says what Tennessee says. This is forcing the inmate to choose electrocution. The inmate would have an automatic Eighth Amendment challenge. The electric chair is clearly a brutal alternative.”
Republican State Senator Ken Yager, who sponsored the bill, said he did it out of “a real concern that we could find ourselves in a position that if chemicals were unavailable to use that we would not be able to carry out the sentence.”
Tennessee currently has 74 prisoners on death row but criminal defense attorney David Raybin says that while lawmakers have the right to change the method of execution, making the move retroactive would be unconstitutional.