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Electric Chair on Way Out in Ga.

March 23, 2000

ATLANTA (AP) _ Georgia lawmakers have voted to phase out the electric chair and make lethal injection the state’s primary means of execution, two months after a similar move in Florida.

If Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes approves, Alabama and Nebraska would be the only states still using the electric chair as their sole means of execution.

``This makes it a humane sort of thing that will give dignity, even to the families,″ said Democratic Rep. E.C. Tillman, the bill’s sponsor, who believes electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment.

Georgia passed its current death penalty law in 1973. A decade passed before the first execution, but since then, there have been 23, all by electric chair.

The switch to lethal injection _ approved by wide margins in both houses of the Legislature _ was proposed because lawmakers feared the U.S. Supreme Court might strike down electrocution in response to lawsuits from inmates. The high court recently rejected one such appeal and canceled its review of the other, but a similar challenge is pending before the Georgia Supreme Court.

Under the legislation sent to Barnes on Wednesday, death row inmates convicted of crimes committed May 1 and thereafter would die by injection. The 127 inmates already on death row would still die in the electric chair.

The phase-out is to prevent reopening their cases, since some death sentences specify the executions be carried out by electrocution.

Barnes, a death penalty supporter, planned to review the bill before deciding whether to sign it into law, a spokeswoman said.

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On the Net: Georgia government site: http://www.state.ga.us

Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.essential.org/dpic

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