Death row inmate must choose between lethal injection and electric chair, judge in Tennessee rules

Chris Baynes
David Earl Miller is scheduled to be executed on 6 December: AP

A US death row inmate who asked to be executed by firing squad has been told he must choose between the electric chair and lethal injection.

Tennessee prisoner David Earl Miller, 61, was sentenced to death 36 years ago for murdering a 23-year-old woman whom he had been dating.

Victim Lee Standifer, who had learning difficulties, was found with multiple stab wounds in Miller’s garden in Knoxville in 1981. Her injuries also suggested she had been bludgeoned in the head with a fire poker.

Lethal injection is Tennessee’s preferred execution method, but inmates whose crimes were committed before 1999 have the option of choosing the electric chair.

Earlier this month the state executed a prisoner by electrocution for the first time in 11 years. Double murderer Edmund Zagorski, 63, had refused a lethal injection.

Miller and three other inmates have launched a legal bid to be permitted death by firing squad, which is not allowed under state law.

The prisoner’s lawyers argued the electric chair was “sure or very likely to inflict a gruesome and torturous death”.

“The firing squad significantly reduces a substantial risk of unnecessary and severe pain” compared with the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections, the lawsuit added.

A federal judge last week denied Miller’s request for his execution to be delayed pending the outcome of the lawsuit. His lawyers had appealed.

Miller, who is the state’s longest-standing death row prisoner, had been given a deadline of Tuesday afternoon to choose how he will die. That has now been extended to 26 November.

He is scheduled to be executed on 6 December.

In a separate case, the US Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider arguments that Miller’s lawyers had not properly represented him at a sentencing hearing, during which they did not call experts to discuss his abusive childhood.

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