Posted by: bridget | 13 September 2007

Death Penalty, Part IV

For the first time since 1960, Tennessee executed an inmate by electric chair.  In 1997, Daryl Holton had shot his three sons and their half-sister when his ex-wife refused visitation.  Prisoners who committed crimes after 01 January 1999 receive lethal injection; those who committed crimes before then may choose between lethal injection and the electric chair.  (See, Death Penalty Info.) 

In February of 2007, the governor of Tennessee issued a 90-day moratorium on executions, pending receipt and review of a report about the state’s execution methods.  The moratorium was lifted in May; the State petitioned to re-set Mr. Holton’s execution date, which was granted by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. 

Mr. Holton opted to be executed via electric chair; subsequently, seventy-eight attorneys filed briefs to prevent the execution on the grounds that electrocution is “cruel and unusual punishment.”  (The Ninth Circuit held, until overturned by the Supreme Court, that “Eighth Amendment protections may not be waived, at least in the area of capital punishment.”) The Supreme Court of Tennessee properly denied the motion, stating that Mr. Holton, in rejecting lethal injection, waived any Eighth Amendment issues with said method. 

Of course, a person cannot, by happenstance of a choice between two unconstitutional scenarios, be made to waive a constitutional right.  Mr. Holton and his supporters,  however, did not argue that lethal injection and the electric chair are both unconstitutional. 

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