Speed Reads

Capital Punishment

Tennessee dusts off its electric chair

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If Europe thought it could end America's death penalty by refusing to export its lethal-injection drugs, well, it was partly right. After Oklahoma's infamously botched execution, using its own untested combination of mysteriously acquired drugs, the state suspended all executions, and the Supreme Court indefinitely stayed a Missouri lethal-injection execution Tuesday night, without explaining why.

Lethal injection isn't the only way to kill a prisoner, though. On Thursday evening, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill mandating execution by electric chair if no lethal-injection drugs are available. Tennessee, along with seven other states, already allowed prisoners the option to get electrocuted, but Richard Dieter at the Death Penalty Information Center tells The Associated Press that the Volunteer State is the first to not give prisoners a choice. Tennessee has 74 prisoners on death row, and its next scheduled execution is in October.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the electric chair in 1890, and Tennessee last used it in 2007. But the method has its own history of horribly botched executions. If the chair seems old-timey, Wyoming is going back even further with a bill that would reinstate the firing squad. If another state reverts to the gallows or guillotine, we'll have a definite trend.