Tennessee governor won’t intervene in execution next week

October 5, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday that he will not intervene in next week’s scheduled lethal injection of a Tennessee inmate sentenced in 1984 in the slayings of two men during a drug deal.

The decision brings 63-year-old Edmund Zagorski a step closer to his execution slated for Thursday, which would make him the second person put to death in Tennessee in two months after a hiatus stretching back to 2009. A third execution is scheduled for December.

Haslam said that in asking for clemency, Zagorski pointed to his behavior in prison and to affidavits from nearly 35 years after his trial in which some jurors say they would prefer a life sentence without parole. Haslam said that state law didn’t allow that option then, and the state Supreme Court has ruled that though life without parole is now allowed, it doesn’t affect previous verdicts.

“While Zagorski has exhibited good behavior during his incarceration, that does not undo the fact that he robbed and brutally murdered two men and attempted to kill a police officer while on the run,” Haslam said in his statement Friday.

Prosecutors said Zagorski shot John Dotson and Jimmy Porter, then slit their throats after robbing them in Robertson County in April 1983. The victims had planned to buy marijuana from Zagorski.

Haslam said jurors returned a unanimous verdict at the time and 10 courts have upheld the verdict and sentence since.

Meanwhile, attorneys for 32 death row inmates are still awaiting a decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court on their lawsuit claiming that the three-drug lethal injection protocol amounts to unconstitutional torture. Federal public defender Kelley Henry said she will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the inmates lose, and will seek a stay in the execution while the case is reviewed.

Days before the state put Billy Ray Irick to death in August, the state Supreme Court refused to block Irick’s execution, saying the lawsuit filed by inmates involving the execution drugs wasn’t likely to succeed.

Irick, 59, was condemned for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl.

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