Sunday, 16 September 2007

Holton's electrocution may have been the last in the U.S.

September 15, 2007


Holton's electrocution may have been the last in the U.S.

Clint Confehr, Shelbyville Times-Gazette

Daryl Holton's execution may prove to be the last electrocution in the
United States, according to the chief prosecutor of the Shelbyville man who
shot and killed four children nearly 10 years ago.

"If he goes through with this," retired District Attorney Mike McCown said
Tuesday after conferring, on other topics, with one of the men who helped
him prosecute Holton, "he will probably be the last person to receive it."

Holton killed his three sons and their half-sister in November 1997. When he
surrendered to police, he said he killed them because they'd be better off
in heaven than being raised by his ex-wife. He chose electrocution because
it was the method of death on the books at the time. He expected it and
reportedly had contempt for attorneys who tried to stop the execution.

"Electrocution has gotten such a bad name that I think they're all trying to
avoid it," McCown said, basing his statement on conversations with "some
people in Nashville." He would not identify them.

The reason there's "a very strong possibility Holton will be the last U.S.
inmate to be electrocuted" is in the nature of state laws and how
electrocution is being phased out, McCown said.

State law says, "Any person who commits an offense prior to Jan. 1, 1999,
for which the person is sentenced to the punishment of death may elect to be
executed by electrocution by signing a written waiver waiving the right to
be executed by lethal injection."

Therefore, execution by lethal injection is mandatory in Tennessee for those
who had committed a capitol offense after 1998. Other states have similar

They create a class of inmates who have a choice. Holton selected the method
that has, according to McCown's information, become an anathema.

Denunciation of the electric chair as inhumane came Tuesday afternoon. A
petition asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to withdraw its order of
execution. The court said no to scores of lawyers nearly four hours before
the execution.

It was witnessed by Times-Gazette staff writer Clint Confehr. Within a
couple of hours, Professor Robert Blecker of the New York School of Law
reacted to McCown's observation saying, "Nebraska."

That state's sole method of execution is electrocution, but it has far fewer
inmates on death row compared to Tennessee and all have petitions pending
which, if granted, would either delay, commute or otherwise address
administration of the death sentence.

It's easy to argue there's got to be something mentally wrong with a men who
killed four innocent children. Holton's father expressed concern for the
mental health system in America, speculating on what might not have happened
to his son and grandchildren.

This state only requires that the condemned know what's going to happen and
why. Holton accepted that social contract. A decade passed before he was
allowed to pay.

A prosecutor still working in this district has said if there was anyone who
deserved execution it was Daryl Holton.

Shelbyville Police Chief Austin Swing recalls Officer Rod Stacy pitched
football with two of Holton's sons across the street from the auto repair
garage where Holton worked and lived. Holton knew the officer and told him
about fire bombs in the garage that were to be used at the ex-wife's home in

"We could have officers who got hurt if it weren't for Rod," Chief Swing

There's testimony for community oriented patrol systems.

Shelbyville is emotional and frustrated by the whole chain of events and
won't heal from this for a long time, Swing said. Strong men still weep for
the children.

Holton resisted permitting an autopsy because he believed reports could be
manipulated, Blecker said. Holton relented and according to the Associated
Press, second degree sunburn was the external wound suffered on top of
Holton's head and at his ankles where electricity flowed into and out of his
body for a total of 25 seconds.

Tiny current causes muscle tissue to work. When electricity flowed in
Holton's body muscles stiffened, his legs straightened to be parallel with a
straightened spine that was restrained by seat belts like those of a pilot
strapped in a cockpit and sitting on a parachut.

His heart was stopped quickly. He expected brief pain, Blecker said.

However, it had to be terrible pain and it knocked him out so, without
circulation, he effectively died in his sleep, perhaps with an awful


Source : Shelbyville Times-Gazette

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