Tennessee Death Row Inmate Chooses To Die By Electrocution — The Chair Was Made By ‘Self-Taught Execution Expert’

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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A Tennessee death row inmate who is party to a lawsuit against the state about the use of a lethal injection drug has chosen to die by electrocution Thursday — and the chair he is slated to die in was assembled by a man The Associated Press describes as a “self-taught execution expert.”

Edmund Zagorski is scheduled to die Thursday night in a chair rebuilt by Fred Leuchter in 1988 that passed inspection Oct. 10, according to the AP.

An electric chair, nicknamed "Old Sparky", is seen at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in this undated handout photo provided by Tennessee's Department of Correction in Nashville. REUTERS/Tennessee Department of Correction/Handout via Reuters

An electric chair, nicknamed “Old Sparky”, is seen at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in this undated handout photo provided by Tennessee’s Department of Correction in Nashville. REUTERS/Tennessee Department of Correction/Handout via Reuters

The chair has not been used since 2007. Zagorski, 63, will die in it after a final meal of “pickled pig knuckles and pig tails,” reported CNN. The convicted double murderer will be the second person to die by electrocution in Tennessee in nearly 60 years, according to CNN.

Execution aficionado Leuchter contracted with 27 states to work on gallows, gas chambers and other execution methods, mostly during the 1980s. (RELATED: Authorities Reportedly Have Their Eye On This Hitman As Whitey Bulger’s Killer)

But his career was cut short when “his reputation was tainted by his claim that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz,” reported the AP. Then, the states he had been working for found out that although Leuchter referred to himself as an engineer, he had no applicable degree or license, reported the AP.

Leuchter is concerned the chair will not work properly after others made changes to it. (RELATED: Prosecutors Want Death Penalty For Accused Synagogue Shooter)

“What I’m worried about now is Tennessee’s got an electric chair that’s going to hurt someone or cause problems. And it’s got my name on it,” Leuchter said, according to the AP. “I don’t think it’s going to be humane.”

However, Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said he had “a great deal of confidence in our Department of Correction folks,” according to the AP.

Leuchter traces his interest in execution machinery to accompanying his father to work in the Massachusetts state prison system in the 1940s and 1950s. He even helped his father move the state’s electric chair to a new prison location while he was a teen, reported the AP.

Leuchter’s story was told in a 2000 documentary titled “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.”

Zagorski and more than 30 other death row inmates sued Tennessee over its use of lethal injection ingredient midazolam in July, reported CNN.

States other than Tennessee have had execution plans halted instead of altered because of lawsuits regarding the sedative midazolam and other lethal injection ingredients. In Nevada, the execution of convicted murderer Scott Raymond Dozier has been halted indefinitely because of drug companies’ lawsuit about the state using their products.

Lethal injection is the most common way state corrections departments carry out death sentences, with only nine states allowing death by electric chair, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Zagorski murdered two men in 1984. He both shot the men and slit their throats when he met them in a wooded area in Robertson County, Tennessee, after telling them he would sell them marijuana there. Zagorski also robbed his victims, according to The Tennessean.

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