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Trial set for death row inmates seeking firing squad option

October 16, 2020 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A trial date has been set for case seeking to allow the firing squad and other execution methods outside of lethal injection and the electric chair in Tennessee.

U.S. District Judge William Campbell scheduled the trial for April 2022.

Nearly two years ago, four death row inmates filed a complaint arguing that the state had several alternative execution methods that would “substantially reduce the constitutionally-unacceptable risk of inflicting unnecessary and serious pain” caused by electrocution.

Three of those inmates have since been executed by the electric chair, an option available in Tennessee for inmates whose crimes were committed before the state adopted lethal injection as its preferred execution method.

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Nicholas Todd Sutton’s electrocution took place in February 2020, Stephen Michael West was electrocuted in August 2019, and David Earl Miller was electrocuted in December 2018.

The fourth inmate remains on death row: Terry Lynn King, who was sentenced to death in 1985 for the kidnapping and killing of Diana Smith.

According to the lawsuit, attorneys argue that the state already has the trained personnel, firearms and space to allow for a firing squad. However, if the court disagreed, the suit argued inmates should have permission to use other alternatives such as orally administering lethal drugs over using a needle, or using different forms of drugs.

The last time a firing squad was used in the U.S. was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was killed by a firing squad in Utah for the 1984 murder of attorney Michael Burdell during a failed courthouse escape.

Today, just three states — Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah — continue to allow the use of firing squads.