Inmates Sue, Call Electric Chair 'Torture Device'

Tennessee convicts say it shouldn't be alternative to lethal injection

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 23, 2014 8:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Death-row inmates in Tennessee have sued the state over its possible use of the electric chair to kill them, reports the Tennessean. "Even when the chair works exactly as it is intended, it is a torture device," says an attorney for the inmates. The move stems from the national controversy over lethal injection, including the prolonged executions in Oklahoma and Arizona. Tennessee has declared that if lethal injection is deemed unconstitutional, it will use the electric chair as its backup.

The 10 inmates, however, say that's a violation of the Constitution because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. As NBC News explains, the big problem is that it doesn't cause instant death. "A prisoner that remains alive, conscious, and sensate for some period of time during an electrocution execution will experience excruciating pain and suffering," says the suit. The same inmates had previously sued over lethal injection, demanding to know where the drugs come from and who will administer them. Yesterday's legal action amends that suit to include the complaint about the electric chair.

File photo of an electric chair at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tenn.
File photo of an electric chair at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tenn.   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
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