States look to the past for execution methods

Tennessee passes legislation to bring back the electric chair
Associated Press
May 23, 2014


The disarray surrounding lethal injection in the U.S. is beginning to steer states back toward methods of execution that many had long ago deemed less humane than the needle.

Tennessee jumped out front this week with a law that could essentially bring back the electric chair. Elsewhere around the country, lawmakers have been talking about reviving the firing squad and the gas chamber, methods largely abandoned a generation ago.

The reason: Lethal injection — the primary means of execution in all 32 states with capital punishment — is under fire as never before because of botched executions, drug shortages caused by a European-led boycott, and a flurry of lawsuits over the new chemicals that states are using instead.

The Tennessee legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday would allow the state to use electrocution against any current or future death row inmate if lethal injection drugs become unavailable.

In truth, Tennessee never did abandon the electric chair; killers who committed their crimes before the state adopted lethal injection in 1999 have been given the choice of electrocution or the needle.

But the new law could take that choice away from the inmates and make everyone on death row subject to the electric chair.

Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School who has studied executions for more than two decades, called Tennessee's law unprecedented.

"No state has gone backward, to go back in time to a prior method of execution," she said. "For over a century, they have all moved forward."

Some attorneys warned that changing the method of execution on inmates who were originally subject to lethal injection would be unconstitutional.

Other experts noted that the legal and political attacks on lethal injection as cruel and unusual have had the unintended effect of driving states toward methods that are considered even worse.

Wyoming lawmakers are talking about changing the law to allow the firing squad, while their counterparts in Utah have proposed repealing a law that ended firing squads for prisoners convicted after 2004. Missouri law allows for the gas chamber, and politicians from both parties last year suggested rebuilding one.

During the electric-chair debate in Tennessee, one lawmaker said he would support hanging and the firing squad, too. Another legislator, Republican Rep. Dennis Powers, the bill's House sponsor, shrugged off legal and ethical concerns about the measure.

"It's not our job to judge. That's God's job to judge," Powers said. "Our job is to arrange the meeting."

Douglas Berman, a law professor at the University of Ohio, said the new Tennessee law could be part of an effort to force death row inmates challenging lethal injection to back off.

"It might be the design that, 'Hey, if you fight against this hard enough and say we can't use lethal injection, fine, we'll strap your guy in the chair,'" Berman said.

"Maybe that will move the needle on the willingness of the defense bar in Tennessee to be as aggressive in complaining about what they see as problematic with lethal injection."

Nashville defense attorney David Raybin, a former prosecutor who wrote Tennessee's death penalty statutes in 1976, warned that the switch could entangle the state in legal challenges that could prolong death row cases for many years.

Tennessee has no lethal injection drugs on hand, though officials insist they can obtain them when needed. There are 74 prisoners on the state's death row, and the next execution is scheduled for October.

The last time Tennessee used the electric chair was in 2007, when Daryl Holton, who killed his three sons and a stepdaughter with a rifle in a garage, chose electrocution.

Raybin, who witnessed the execution, called it barbaric and inhumane and complained about the "carnival-like atmosphere." The whole process, he said, "lends no dignity to the judicial system, no dignity to the victim."

The Supreme Court has never declared a method of execution unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. It upheld the firing squad in 1879, the electric chair in 1890 and lethal injection in 2008.

First used by New York State in 1890, the electric chair was employed throughout the 20th century to execute hundreds and is still an option in eight states.

Since 1976, when the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in the U.S., 158 inmates have been electrocuted.

The chair was considered humane when it was first introduced but has resulted in a number of horrific executions over the years.


thinkagain's picture

"It's not our job to judge. That's God's job to judge," Powers said. "Our job is to arrange the meeting."


Don’t ask this Christian to defend atrocities like state-sponsored slaughter.

Glorification of the homosexual act. Total indifference to the killing of the unborn. And now a return to the gruesome past, yet another blot on a decaying, irrelevant society under the guise of “enlightenment”.

Please don’t bother quoting the New Testament, in an attempt to justify state sponsored murder and a blood lust to act as God, it ain’t in there. Instead, you might want to read the words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount.


Funny you admit your brethren and your book are wrong...


i agree. no state sponsored slaughter. i say give the killer to the family of the victim.


Yes, only pick out the parts of the bible that thinkagain approves of. Those are the only parts that count. You can only quote or preach those parts that are approved by those who cherry pick for their own purposes. Noone else is allowed to do it. And you can only use a certain translation to quote from. I mean do you go by the KJV, NKJV, NASV, ASV, NIV, The New World Translation? Take your pick. Or you can just make it up as you go.


"Yes, only pick out the parts of the bible that thinkagain approves of. Those are the only parts that count. You can only quote or preach those parts that are approved by those who cherry pick for their own purposes."
Sorry, but thinkagain's position on capital punishment is fully consistent with the entire Bible, in all its translations. See my response to Sam below.

It's wildly inconsistent with some of thinkagain's other comments regarding the role of the state, but it's perfectly consistent with the Bible.

4-wheeler al

all you here is how cruel it is when they are put too death. What about the ones they kill. Ones that kill gets better treatment than the ones are killed. Should be other way around.




Couldn't agree more!!


What about the thing that just cuts their heads off real quick. I would say thats quick and painless. They are convicted murders lets not forget.

Stop It

We are all gonna burn in hell if thinkagain Phelps has HIS way.


Having read a good deal about various methods of execution, both past and present, I would have to come down on the side of those who consider the electric chair to be "cruel and unusual punishment," and a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

That being said, I do NOT oppose capital punishment. While I continue to believe that lethal injection is humane (provided, obviously, inadequate training or inadequate/inappropriate drugs don't result in a botched execution), a firing squad and a guillotine are also humane. Messier, but humane!

As for the most "reverend" thinkagain, well, he likes to pick and choose from the Bible. The fact is that capital punishment is MANDATED for certain offenses (including adultery, as it happens) in the Old Testament. And for holier-than-thou Christians like thinkagain, it's both disingenuous and hypocritical to disregard Jesus' alleged own words concerning the laws laid down in the Old Testament: He said that "not one iota" of those laws was changed by his coming, and that he came "not to change the law but to fulfill it." Either go by what the Bible says or don't, but picking and choosing sort of waters the entire thing down, don't you think, thinkagain?

thinkagain's picture

Always amusing to see an anti-Christian troll ‘ explaining ‘ Christianity….priceless…and senseless to boot.

Be concerned with your own lack of comprehension. Mine is fine.

Matthew 15:4: Did Jesus command to put children to death?

Tell me, when Jesus said bless those who curse you, did He really mean that we were to bash their heads in with a rock?

Jesus did not stone the woman caught in adultery, even though the Mosaic law said He must. Gee, I wonder why?

The penalties under the Mosaic Law were quite literal. With the coming of Jesus a change in dispensations was about to occur and the Mosaic Law would no longer be in effect.

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

Licorice Schtick

There is so much wisdom in The Bible, and so much stupidity in trying to take every word literally. The egotist who attempt to do so are typically trying to justify themselves, and narcissistically ignore the collaterally damage.


Jesus fulfilled the Law at the cross where He died for our sins.


That really doesn't make sense!

thinkagain's picture

Tell us, do you have to work at being obtuse, or like Sam, it just comes natural? Good burn, huh?

Jesus fulfilled the Law, in that He was the only person to ever keep the whole Law, even in His heart, without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

If Christ fulfilled all the law, why do you try to bring people back under its bondage? Of course my question is rhetorical, the answer is plain. By observing the law no one would be justified and as a child of Satan, that is your desire.

Christians are not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

If you intend to keep the Old Testament law, have fun. But know this, you ignore the work that Christ did in our stead in the New Testament covenant.


So let's just ignore the old testament because god changed his mind. If Christians are going to inherit the kingdom, you say that they will do so because of faith in Jesus alone. Yet, you put much emphasis on the bible and following its word, aka, people who perform executions must not be Christians. Let's ignore the fact that god said to put almost every human to death (for their sins), we're taking it too literal.


"So let's just ignore the old testament because god changed his mind."

No, because there was a PLANNED change in the relationship.

It's like you got your entire understanding of Judao-Christian beliefs from a Saturday morning cartoon.


One can be subject to the Law, or live under Grace through the shed blood of Christ Jesus.


"That being said, I do NOT oppose capital punishment."

And thus, Sam, you once again fall off the libertarian wagon. How can one claim to be for limiting government power and at the same time grant government the power to KILL its citizens? There is no more awesome power one can give and no power so tempting to abuse.

"As for the most "reverend" thinkagain, well, he likes to pick and choose from the Bible. The fact is that capital punishment is MANDATED for certain offenses (including adultery, as it happens) in the Old Testament. "

Yes, under a contractual relationship between God and a given group of people, and the processes given for judging who will receive that punishment allow for a divine component in the process. There is nothing in the Bible that justifies a secular government, or any gentiles, executing anyone.

Note that Israel does not have the death penalty, even for nazi war criminals. In AD 71, when the Temple was destroyed, the means for deciding a capital case according to the Old Testament became unavailable.


I'd like to know WHO died and made thinkagain the translator of the bible for the rest of the world. Why does he get to tell everyone what he thinks the bible does or doesn't mean.

thinkagain's picture

Who died?

That would be Jesus.

Who made Christians the translator of the Bible?

That would be the Holy Spirit.

Why do Christians get to tell everyone?

That would be because Jesus commands us to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”.


So what happens when someone else reads it and gets a different idea on what it means and takes it in a different direction? There are different translations. Anyone can read a book and think it means something entirely different.

thinkagain's picture

“Anyone can read a book and think it means something entirely different.”

Do I have all knowledge and understand all things? Ah….nope.

I give Scripture (in context) to support my interpretations. Everyone is free to debate me in the same manner. Alas, not many do.


God could have destroyed satan, or the world for that matter, before all this confusion. We're pre genetically programmed to mate and care for our young, so he could have programmed the truth into us. But just because you say so, apparently means it's true. Santa is real, if you truly believe.

John Hagee, Fred Phelps... All of them scared millions for their millions of dollars.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Without throwing my own personal views on religion in this, for some reason your post reminded me of these quotes from "The Devil's Advocate" (

John Milton: Let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He's a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It's the goof of all time. Look but don't touch. Touch, but don't taste. Taste, don't swallow. Ahaha. And while you're jumpin' from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He's laughin' His sick, [fiddlin'] ass off! He's a tight-ass! He's a SADIST! He's an absentee landlord! Worship that? NEVER!

= = = = = = = = = =

Kevin Lomax: "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven", is that it?

John Milton: Why not? I'm here on the ground with my nose in it since the whole thing began. I've nurtured every sensation man's been inspired to have. I cared about what he wanted and I never judged him. Why? Because I never rejected him. In spite of all his imperfections, I'm a fan of man! I'm a humanist. Maybe the last humanist.

= = = = = = = = = =

I'm going to have to watch that movie again, there's a lot of good quotes in it.


I heard of it, never watched it. Interesting.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I could think of worse movies to watch. But it makes interesting points and the title of the movie is in itself (if the quotes weren't enough evidence) what it is all about. What's the worst that can happen in a movie with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, anyway?

There was another good quote, too, in "The Usual Suspects" (

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

Another good one, too, was mentioned in the move "Revolver" ( but accredited to the following:

“In religion the ego manifests as the devil, and of course no one realizes how smart the ego is because it created the Devil so you could blame someone else.”
-Dr. Deepak Chopra M.D.

Take a look at this for an interesting insight into the ego from that movie: http://mattmicheletti.wordpress....


Many do, you just do not like it. Anyone who sees differently than you are not worthy, correct? We are beneath you? Isn't that how you see it? You give out cherry picked quotes from the bible. But when others do it, you tell them that isn't what it really means, that some non-Christian has yet again butchered the true meaning. Seems you are the ONLY one that understands the meaning of the bible. Shocking.

thinkagain's picture

None of your comments thus far have contained a rebuttal to my stated position.

Rather than make a specific, rational argument on any given point of contention, it appears your only purpose in commenting is to berate.

Other than your hatred, you definitely don’t bring much to the table, on that I’ll agree.


Not just me personally. You do not like anyone's comments. You go on the attack of anyone that doesn't see the bible thru your eyes. If someone quotes scripture you say they have butchered it and that is not the true meaning. If someone has an opposing view on a different religion you tell them they are damned to hell and throw more scripture at them (but only the ones that YOU cherry pick).

thinkagain's picture

Does your therapist know you are projecting your anger against a righteous God onto an anonymous commenter?

Five times you have commented and not one is on topic. Three of those five contained rehashed, unsubstantiated accusations of “cherry picking”. The repetitive, redundant nature of your comments has lost my interest.


You originally made this about religion in the very first post. If he/she doesn't believe in a god, then how could he/she be angry against one? That's not projection, that's stating an opinion and having confidence. Being repetitive makes a point.

To imply that someone you don't know has mental health issues is wrong. You're lower than a snake.


"To imply that someone you don't know has mental health issues is wrong."

Leftists like you do it all the time.




Wow, now I need a therapist because I do not believe in god? Where do you stop? As for not being on topic, your comments on EVERY story bring have something to do with god. You seem to think that everything in the world, life or people's day must revolve around god. Well in your life that is fine, not for everyone else. The joy of living in America, not everyone is forced to support YOUR belief.

I hate to break it to you. YOUR bible does talk about murder, rape, slavery, stoning, beating, hell women are not allowed to speak in church. If that is what you find so righteous, by all means go live it. If anyone needs a therapist, I fear it is you. You are even starting to scare other Christians.


Do you believe that the Bible is literally word-for-word the truth? If so, can you explain the inconsistencies, contradictions, or outright falsehoods?

Do you believe, instead, that the Bible is metaphorical for a true PHILOSOPHY, but is word-for-word merely allegory? If so, how can you argue with another's claim that people may interpret allegories differently?


Who are you talking to? The board screwed up the comment lineage, making it look like you replied to a post before it was even posted....


There is a very fine line between being a religious zealot and being insane. Any guesses on which side of the line think again falls on?

thinkagain's picture

WOW! Ya gotta give me credit for the most responses to a comment. And the fact that not a single response dealt with the subject of this article. Thanks for playing! In gratitude I make you all honorary members of the thinkagain fan boy club.

The same “judges” show up on each article. Judging by all their judgmental comments, judging someone must be OK...…as long as you’re not a judgmental Christian. ◔_◔


"And the fact that not a single response dealt with the subject of this article."

Yes, because your comments weren't off topic.

" long as you’re not a judgmental Christian. ◔_◔"

I prefer truth, that is all.


"Yes, because your comments weren't off topic."

Thinkagain posted the first comment in the thread, and it was perfectly on-topic. Then others mounted a personal attack, completely ignoring any thought of rebutting thinkagain's topical comment. I can think of plenty of verses people might have offered in rebuttal - they'd be invalidated by context, but at least it would have constituted some attempt to stay on topic.

Sorry, but thinkagain is the LAST person responsible for this discussion going off the rails.