Ten death row inmates in Tennessee were permitted by a judge to amend pending lawsuits to include a challenge to the use of the electric chair, reported the Associated Press.
The general assembly passed a law earlier this year allowing prisoners to be electrocuted if Tennessee Department of Correction officials were unable to obtain the drug used for lethal injection.
Prior to that, prisoners could not be forced to die by the electric chair, although they were allowed to choose that method under some circumstances.
The death row plaintiffs claim the new law violates both the US and Tennessee constitutions. Among other things, they claim it violates evolving standards of decency. They also claim that the law is too vague. And they question whether the state’s electric chair actually operates as it is supposed to.
Davidson County chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled recently that the inmates could amend their lawsuit to include the new claims. The original lawsuit challenged the state’s new lethal injection protocol, adopted in September 2013. It switched execution from the use of three drugs to just one, pentobarbital.
The switch was a response to legal challenges over the effectiveness of the three-drug mixture and a nationwide shortage of one of them, sodium thiopental. Those issues have effectively prevented any executions in Tennessee for nearly five years.
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