Tennessee’s first execution by the electric chair in more than a decade was carried out Thursday night as planned.
Edmund Zagorski was put to death at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison for a drug-related double murder in the mid-1980s. The rarely used electric chair appeared to function properly.
There had been some concern about the chair, even from the amateur engineer who built it. This was only the second time it had been used in at least half a century.
Once Zagorski was securely strapped in, he was asked by the warden if he had any final words. He said, “Let’s rock.”
Two guards finished wetting the sponges on his head and ankles to help conduct electricity and hooked up the power cable and draped a black shroud over his face. They energized the chair twice and his body rose up against the belts each time.
Then he was motionless with hands clinched in fists. He was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m.
Zagorski chose electrocution after a legal challenge to the state’s three-drug lethal injection potocol failed. He had said it was a quicker and more humane way to die. Still, his attorneys challenged the death sentence up until the final hours. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal just minutes before the execution.
According to his public defender, Zagorski had no ill will toward the state of Tennessee.
While in the electric chair, he alternated between a grimace and a smile, gesturing with his eyebrows to attorney Kelly Henry, who held her hand over her heart.
After the execution, she said her client wanted to maintain a positive attitude to prevent her and the guards from becoming upset.
“He said, ‘First of all I want to make it very clear, I have no hard feelings. I don’t want any of you to have this on your conscience. You are all doing your job.’ “