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State electrocutes second inmate in two months
David Earl Miller.jpg
David Earl Miller

NASHVILLE (AP) — A Tennessee inmate became the second person to die in the state's electric chair in just over a month Thursday, nearly two decades after Tennessee adopted lethal injection as its preferred method of execution.

David Earl Miller, 61, was pronounced dead at 7:25 p.m. at a Nashville maximum-security prison.

Miller was convicted of killing 23-year-old Lee Standifer in 1981 in Knoxville and had been on death row for 36 years, the longest of any inmate in Tennessee.

At 7:12 p.m. and after Miller had been strapped into the chair, Tennessee Department of Correction officials raised a blind that had covered the windows to a witness room. Miller looked straight ahead, his eyes seemingly unfocused and his face expressionless.

Warden Tony Mays asked Miller if he had any last words. He spoke but his words were unintelligible. Mays asked him to repeat himself, and his words were still difficult to understand, but his attorney, Stephen Kissinger, said he understood them to be, "Beats being on death row."

Officers then placed a large damp sponge on Miller's shaved head to help conduct the current before strapping a cap to his head. Water ran down Miller's face and was toweled off by an officer. Miller looked down and did not look back up before officers placed a shroud over his face.

After someone connected an electrical cable to the chair, Miller's body stiffened as the first jolt of current hit him. His body then relaxed before a second jolt came less than a minute later. Again, Miller's body stiffened and then relaxed. The blinds were pulled down and an announcement of the time of death came over an intercom.

Miller had been on a date with Standifer, who had mental disabilities, and the two were seen together around town the evening of May 20, 1981. The young woman's body was found beaten and stabbed the next day in the yard of the home where Miller had been living.

In recent decades, states have moved away from the electric chair, and no state now uses electrocution as its main execution method, said Robert Dunham. Dunham is the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which doesn't take a stand on the death penalty but is critical of its application.

Dunham said he wasn't aware of any state other than Tennessee where inmates are choosing electrocution over lethal injection.