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Tennessee gives next death row inmate more time to decide how he wants to die

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Posted at 8:19 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 21:19:28-05

The state says it will extend the deadline for Tennessee’s next death row inmate to tell prison officials how he would like the state to execute him.

David Earl Miller previously had until Tuesday to tell prison officials whether he’d prefer the state’s default method of execution by lethal injection, or the alternative of the electric chair.

In a federal court filing late Tuesday, Tennessee says it will now give Miller until 5 p.m. Monday to make his decision, 10 days before his scheduled execution date of December 6.

Edmund Zagorski, Tennessee’s latest death row inmate to be executed, was the first inmate in Tennessee to choose the electric chair since 2007, amid concerns surrounding the chemicals Tennessee uses during lethal injection.

The announcement comes as legal filings in several courts are beginning to ramp up, as is typical in the days before a scheduled execution.

Tuesday, a federal judge in Nashville denied a request from Miller’s attorney Stephen Kissinger to reconsider delaying Miller’s execution.  That denial has been appealed to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied issuing a stay of execution for Miller based on arguments he had ineffective lawyers during his trial – an argument Zagorski’s attorneys also made in the days before his death sentence was carried out. 

Miller’s attorneys have also appealed a previous Tennessee Supreme Court ruling about the legality of the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Miller’s attorneys are asking for the high court to pause Miller’s execution until it decides another death penalty case involving a death row inmate in Missouri that it heard arguments in earlier this month.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet decided to stop a scheduled execution in Tennessee since the Tennessee Department of Correction resumed them this year following a nine-year hiatus.

Miller’s attorneys have argued that both lethal injection and death by electric chair are unconstitutional, while the state contends that his attorneys are raising arguments that have already been decided in the cases of other death row inmates.

Miller was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of Lee Standifer, a mentally handicapped woman in Knoxville.