U.S. Supreme Court denies hearing Tennessee death row inmate Zagorski's case

Edmund Zagorski (Tennessee Department of Corrections)

The United States Supreme Court has denied hearing Tennessee death row inmate Edmund Zagorski's case.

The High Court said the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion in granting Zagorski a stay, then denied hearing the inmate's motion. This comes after Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted Zagorski a 10-day reprieve from execution. His execution was originally scheduled to be carried out late Thursday night.

"I take seriously the responsibility imposed upon the Tennessee Department of Correction and me by law, and given the federal court’s decision to honor Zagorski’s last-minute decision to choose electrocution as the method of execution, this brief reprieve will give all involved the time necessary to carry out the sentence in an orderly and careful manner,” Governor Haslam said.

The reprieve is effective until October 21. No word yet if the execution will happen on that date.

Earlier Thursday, Judge Aleta Trauger of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted Zagorski's motion asking not to be executed by lethal injection.

A stay of execution was confirmed by a federal appeals court Wednesday. Split 2-1 Thursday, a federal court of appeals panel delayed his execution with a stay for the second time, citing ineffective counsel claims.

Zagorski opted for the electric chair instead of lethal injection for the execution. The state initially rejected his request to die in the electric chair, according to his attorney.

Zagorski’s request came after the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld that the state's current lethal injection protocol is constitutional.

The three-drug lethal injection protocol was adopted in January 2018 by the Tennessee Department of Correction as an alternative execution method to the single-drug protocol using pentobarbital. 33 death row inmates filed a constitutional challenge to the new protocol in February as TDOC eliminated the pentobarbital alternative. The three-drug protocol now stands as the only available lethal injection execution method in Tennessee.

Critics say the three-drug cocktail does not work properly, causing "torturous effects."

Zagorski was convicted of shooting and slitting the throats of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter, of Robertson County, during a marijuana deal in 1983. Governor Bill Haslam denied clemency for Zagorski on October 5.

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