Tennessee Death Row Inmates File Lawsuit to Request Firing Squad Instead of Electric Chair, Lethal Injection

Four death row inmates in Tennessee filed a lawsuit last Friday asking a federal court to let them be executed by firing squad rather than electric chair or lethal injection.

The men in the lawsuit have been identified as David Earl Miller, Nicholas Todd Sutton, Stephen Michael West and Terry Lynn King. As reported by The Tennessean, Miller is set to be executed on December 6 after being sentenced in 1981 for the murder of Lee Standifer, 23.

The lawsuit requested that Miller's death be postponed until the court could consider the case, the newspaper reported. Under Tennessee law, Miller was scheduled to choose his execution method Tuesday, 30 days before his execution. The lawsuit asked to delay that decision.

According to the Associated Press, Stephen Kissinger, who is representing the inmates, wrote in the lawsuit: "There exists one or more feasible and readily-available alternative methods of execution which...reduce the constitutionally unacceptable risk of inflicting unnecessary and serious pain created by the use of electrocution to carry out plaintiffs' executions."

According to The Tennessean, the inmates' lawsuit argues that the state has the firearms and trained personnel to adequately orchestrate their deaths by firing squad.

It suggested the Big Buck Shooting Range at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution could "easily accommodate what little equipment is required for an execution by firing squad." If the court decides against the convicts' appeal, the suit asks for the choice of alternative execution methods, including the administering of lethal drugs orally rather than using a needle.

A spokesperson for the state's Department of Correction said it would be "improper" to comment on the ongoing litigation, the Associated Press reported. Just three U.S. states permit firing squad-style executions for those on death row: Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah.

The Tennessean said lethal injection is the "primary means of execution" in the state. The electric chair is used as a backup if there is a shortage of drugs. The inmates' suit argues that the electric chair is "sure or very likely to inflict a gruesome and torturous death."

The appeal came the day after Edmund Zagorski, 63, was killed by electric chair in Tennessee. He was the first person to die this way in the state since 2007, local media reported. The last time a firing squad was used in the U.S. was in 2010, the AP reported.