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Electric Chair Execution Set Tonight

July 20, 2006

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A convicted killer who chose the electric chair because he was apparently unnerved by the prospect of lethal injection awaited execution Thursday.

Brandon Hedrick, 27, was set to become the first person executed in the electric chair in the United States in more than two years.

He was condemned to die for the 1997 murder of 23-year-old Lisa Crider, who was abducted, robbed, raped and killed with a shotgun blast to the face.

Virginia’s death row inmates are given the option of dying by injection or electrocution. Three other Virginia inmates have opted for the electric chair over injection since the state began giving inmates the choice in 1995.

Last week, several guards showed up at Hedrick’s cell late at night to present him with a form on which he was told to choose his execution method, Hedrick’s attorney Robert Lee said.

The guards ``begin talking about lethal injection _ talking about being strapped down to the table, being made to wait long periods of time, the difficulty sometimes in finding a vein,″ Lee said. ``That information coupled with general frustration produced this result.″

Lethal injection was adopted by many states in recent decades after it was portrayed as more humane than other methods of execution. But defense attorneys in recent months have argued around the country that the combination of drugs can in some cases cause excruciating pain. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that death row inmates can challenge lethal injection as a civil rights issue.

Hedrick did not say the officers discussed reports of pain caused by the chemicals, Lee said. However, Hedrick ``had some awareness of the concerns that have been raised in other litigation _ the idea that you’re anesthetized, but maybe you don’t remain unconscious,″ Lee said.

The defense attorney said he did not believe Hedrick was manipulated into choosing the electric chair, but added: ``Clearly, that stuff spooked him.″

Virginia Corrections Department spokesman Larry Traylor said he is confident the officers handled their task properly.

Virginia has had a few problems with electrocutions in the nearly 25 years since the state resumed use of the chair, which was built out of oak in 1909. In 1990, blood was seen streaming from a condemned man’s mask. The following year, an inmate needed extra jolts to kill him after he survived the first round.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, nine states allow some or all condemned inmates to choose between injection and another method. Ten states have the electric chair; only one of them _ Nebraska _ uses it exclusively.

Hedrick’s attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to stop the execution, arguing among other things that he might be mentally retarded.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the retarded. In Virginia, those who score 70 or below on an IQ test before they turn 18 generally are considered retarded.

Hedrick’s IQ was measured at 76 during his trial, but his attorneys argued that the margin of error and the passage of time may mean his IQ is actually below 70.

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