10 December 2018 :
David Earl Miller was executed in the state’s electric chair. Miller, 61, White, a man with a significant history of mental illness who experienced extensive sexual and physical abuse as a child, opted to be executed by electric chair after the Tennessee Supreme Court denied other prisoners’ challenges to a three-drug lethal-injection process that Miller and his lawyers believed would result in an extended torturous death. Miller is the 2nd Tennessee prisoner to be killed by electrocution in as many months. Edmund Zagorski was executed in the electric chair in November. After going nearly a decade without an execution, Tennessee has now carried out 3 at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville this year. Miller, the longest-serving prisoner on Tennessee's death row, had been awaiting death for nearly 37 years. The Tennessee prisoners challenged the state’s three-drug lethal-injection process, seeking to replace it with execution with a single barbiturate, pentobarbital. Miller presented evidence that the three-drug protocol would result in approximately 18 minutes of unnecessary pain and suffering. He submitted an affidavit from one of the nation’s leading anesthesiologists that Billy Ray Irick “was aware and sensate” during his lethal-injection execution on October 11, 2018 “and would have experienced the feeling of choking, drowning in his own fluids, suffocating, being buried alive, and the burning sensation caused by the injection of the potassium chloride.” The prisoners’ challenge was rejected because Miller—prevented from obtaining critical information by Tennessee’s execution secrecy law—was unable to show that pentobarbital was readily available to the state. Miller elected to be executed in the electric chair, but argued that his choice of electrocution instead of lethal injection was coerced and that both methods were unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. The lower courts ruled that Miller had waived his challenge to constitutionality of the electric chair by choosing it over lethal injection, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene. In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “electrocution can be a dreadful way to die,” but there was “credible scientific evidence that lethal injection as currently practiced in Tennessee may well be even worse.” It was “perverse,” she said, to require prisoners to prove that an alternative method was available to kill them. “Such madness should not continue.” Miller was charged with murdering his intellectually-disabled girlfriend, Lee Standifer, on May 20, 1981. He was 24 years old at the time. Miller’s attorneys submitted an 89-page clemency petition to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam detailing Miller’s upbringing and childhood abuse. Miller becomes the 3rd inmate to be put to death this year in Tennessee and the 9th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 2000. Miller becomes the 23rd inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1,488 overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. The 23 executions equals the total of executions carried out in the USA last year; there are executions scheduled in Texas (Dec. 11) and Florida (Dec. 13) next week.