Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Tenn. killer set to die in electric chair

Tenn. killer set to die in electric chair

Daryl Keith Holton
Tennessee Department of Correction/AP

NASHVILLE — For the first time in 47 years, Tennessee correctional officers are preparing the state's electric chair for an execution.

Daryl Keith Holton, 45, who confessed to fatally shooting his three sons, ages 12, 10 and 6, and his ex-wife's 4-year-old daughter in November 1997, is scheduled to die in the electric chair at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Holton chose the electric chair instead of lethal injection, as was his right under state law for inmates whose crimes occurred before 1999. Holton will be the first to die in Tennessee's electric chair since Nov. 7, 1960, when convicted rapist William Tines was executed.

Holton has dropped all appeals. Unless a court intervenes, the Army veteran will be electrocuted at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

Nine other states still use the electric chair: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia. Since 2000, nine inmates have been electrocuted. The last state to use the chair was Virginia in 2006, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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Holton did not comment on his choice. Dixie Gamble, Holton's spiritual adviser, said Holton chose it because he believes he will die instantly and painlessly.

Fred Leuchter, who built the chair in 1989, asked Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen not to use it, saying it's been modified in such a way that it will be "tantamount to torture." Leuchter said the voltage specified by the state — 1,750 volts — is too low and should be at least 2,000.

The state plans to comply with Holton's request.

"We are prepared to use the chair," Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said.

The chair is inspected and tested quarterly and was tested last week, she said.

The chair was modified in the 1990s by Jay Wiechert, an electrical engineer from Fort Smith, Ark. It will work as intended, said Wiechert, who modified controls, increased the voltage and changed protective devices to provide steady, adequate current.

For some residents of Shelbyville, the execution will bring closure.

Shelbyville Police Officer Rod Stacy was on duty when Holton walked into the police department on the evening of Nov. 30, 1997. "It haunts me to this day," Stacy said. Holton told police he was angry at his wife for keeping him away from the kids.

Neither Holton's family members nor Crystle Holton, the mother of the four children he killed, plan to attend the execution.

Alligood reports for The Tennessean in Nashville.

Contributing: Sheila Burke, The Tennessean.

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