Death row inmate Daryl Holton's choice of the electric chair for his execution has suddenly raised some old questions -- questions about whether the chair will even work.more>>
Lawyers for convicted killer Donnie Johnson have asked a federal judge to block his execution.
Johnson is scheduled to be executed early next Wednesday.
He has chosen to die in the electric chair.
Among the questions now: what happens if something goes wrong?
Tennessee's current electric chair has never been used, and its designer now says it may not work.
But look inside the state's execution manual, and there's no back-up plan about what would happen
"I don't want to die," Johnson recently told NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams, in an exclusive interview.
Johnson was sentenced to die in the electric chair for the murder of his wife -- a murder he has insisted he did not commit.
Even though inmates now have the option of lethal injection, Johnson says he didn't want to make it easy for the state.
"I just don't feel that I should go over there in the middle of the night and let them sanitarily put me to sleep."
Tennessee Correction Commissioner George Little acknowledges that "in some other states, they haven't followed the proper procedures and unfortunately they have ended up having some very terrible results with the executions."
Little says he believes the chair will work.
But the department's own "Manual of Execution" -- obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates -- anticipates the possibility that electrocution may not be quick.
"Following the completion of the electrocution process," the manual calls for a "five-minute waiting period."
After that, it says that "if the inmate is not dead..., the Warden shall give the command to repeat the electrocution procedure."
That process continues until "the inmate is pronounced dead."
"At least, you may expect a disgusting execution," says Fred Leuchter, the man who designed Tennessee's current chair.
He first told NewsChannel 5 six years ago that modifications made to his design could result in the equipment malfunctioning.
It's something for which the state admits it has no plan.
"If the equipment fails and the execution is only halfway through and the person is brain dead, but not heart dead, there's no legal provision for dealing with that if you have to wait two or three weeks to repair the equipment," Leuchter adds.
Johnson lawyer Kelley Henry says "electrocution, lethal injection -- both methods are unconstitutional."
His lawyers say both methods are torture, and they're using photos of other botched electric-chair executions to make their case.
Still, Johnson says he's at peace.
"God won't let me die a minute before it's my time; so, therefore, I can accept this because if it is my time and this is the way that he allows it to happen, I accept it."
Tennessee's attorney general is arguing in court that no one made Johnson choose the electric chair -- so any legal challenges filed by his lawyers should be dismissed.
If the execution does occur, the protocol calls for putting a leather mask over the inmate's face -- which keeps the witnesses from seeing if he is still alive or, as has happened, if his head catches on fire.
Donnie Johnson says he doesn't want the mask.
He wants everyone to see exactly what executions are all about.