Tennessee’s death row inmates have a difficult choice to make if they were convicted and received capital punishment sentences before January 1, 1999, according to the Journal-News. If four condemned inmates have their way, however, there could be a third option presented. The current choices are lethal injection or the electric chair.

Inmates want firing squad added to choice of execution methods

Nicholas Todd Sutton, Stephen Michael West, Terry Lynn King, and David Earl Miller are four inmates on the state’s death row.

They want the state to offer death by firing squad as a third possibility to carry out capital punishment.

Not having to make the choice, in the first place, would be the best option but, since the men have to make a decision, they prefer if the choice of death by a firing squad is added.

In fact, they filed a lawsuit in federal court on November 2. Miller is scheduled for execution on December 6 but the inmates want his death delayed or he must tell the state his choice between which of the two methods of execution, currently available, he selected.

Suit seeks to have judge delay next death date

Under the current capital punishment protocol, Miller has to make his choice by today November 6.

If a postponement is granted, then a judge will have the time needed to “review” the case that the inmates’ collective suit presents, according to The Guardian (UK). In addition, Miller’s execution would be on-hold temporarily.

Lawsuit file day after last man executed

The inmates did not squander time after the state’s last execution. Edmund Zagorski was executed by the electric chair the day before the federal suit was filed.

The men have a federal public defender, Stephen Kissinger. The argument he penned for the court states that there is a method of execution that is not in use at the present time but could cut down on the risk of inflicting “unnecessary and more serious pain,” The Guardian reported.

State has necessary ingredients to include added death method

To further make the point, Kissinger also highlighted the fact that the state has all the ingredients needed to add firing squad to the menu of options. Tennessee has “trained personnel, firearms and space to allow for a firing squad,” according to The Guardian.

Condemned men suggest instruction manual

Additionally, the suit includes the inmates’ suggested instructions for the firing squad “as cited in a military execution manual from 1959,” News Channel 5 noted. The manual presents a contingency plan for emergencies, just in case the firing squad is somehow ineffective in carrying out executions.

The backup is a handgun, held at point-blank range, to the head when the trigger is pulled.

There was no mention in the article of whether a splatter guard is also provided for the executioner, however.

The News-Journal reported that there are three states that still allow for a firing squad to carry out death sentences: Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah. Utah, though, was the most recent state to execute an inmate by firing squad in 2010.

Pentobarbital is also pitched as a choice

If the federal court decides against broadening the choices for condemned inmates by adding firing squad as a choice, the foursome is asking that pentobarbital is used instead of the state’s present three-drug death blend for executions, according to WKRN. While other states, such as Georgia, South Dakota, and Texas have carried out the execution with the drug, Tennessee contends that pentobarbital is “hard to obtain.”

The state also limits the number of attorneys who can be present as witnesses during executions. The inmates are also asking the court to raise the limit from one to two lawyers.

Before Zagorski was executed, United States Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor penned the dissenting opinion. She stated that he had not selected the electric chair as the method of execution because believed it was more humane, but that lethal injection would be far worse. “Capital prisoners are not entitled to pleasant deaths under the Eighth Amendment,” according to Justice Sotomayor, “but they are entitled to humane deaths,” the Washington Post reported.

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