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Prosecutor who called for Zagorski's death penalty speaks out after reprieve granted

Edmund Zagorski (Tennessee Department of Corrections)

Death row inmate Edmund Zagorski's execution was initially slated for Thursday evening, until Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted the convicted killer a 10-day reprieve. Haslam decided to give Zagorski more time after a judge granted his last minute decision of choosing the electric chair instead of the three-drug lethal injection method. The governor said he wants to make sure officials have enough time to prepare and correctly carry out the process.

Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley called for the death penalty back in February 1984 when Zagorski was convicted for shooting two people, then cutting their throats over a marijuana deal.

"He shot them out in the woods and before they were dead, he went over and slit their throats and slaughtered them, and left them there," Whitley says. "They weren't found for two more weeks."

The victims of the crime were John Dale Dotson and Jimmy Porter.

"There's no question about his guilt," says Whitley. "I don't think anyone, even Mr. Zagorski at this point, questions his guilt."

Court documents show that since his sentence, Zagorski has made several appeals to Whitley's decision.

The death row inmate's current appeal claims he has had inadequate counsel and ineffective assistance at trial. That's something Whitley disagrees with, saying Zagorski was represented by two very qualified people. One became a circuit judge for many years, the other later served as president of the Tennessee Bar Association.

He added that Zagorski has had nothing but excellent representation since his conviction. He believes he would have killed again if he had the chance.

And while calling for the death penalty is not an easy decision, Whitley says it's a call he would likely make again today.

"I would like to see justice done," Whitley says. "It's an appropriate punishment for the type of crime that was committed and that's what justice is all about."

Whitley also says that while back in 1984 life without parole was not an option, it's unfair to go back 34 years and question jurors on whether they'd change their options if they had that option.

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