Condemned death row inmate Edmund Zagorski was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m. Thursday evening.
Reporters who witnessed the execution described the moments the electricity began to flow into the chair.
“All of a sudden his hands flexed into fists, he stiffened, raised up a little bit during the first jolt. Then relaxed some, but his hands stayed clinched, with the right pinky over the chair rest,” said Nicole Young, editor with the Robertson County Times.
“He’s perfectly still, and several seconds later another jolt comes on, he goes even higher. And then the energy cuts off, and we sit there in stillness and watch his fists still clenched. Sit there for a good long while, looking for any signs of life,” said Blake Farmer with Nashville Public Radio.
The condemned inmate was fed his last meal a few hours before the execution, which was pickled pig knuckles and pig feet.
His last appeal was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court just after 7 p.m., clearing the way for the execution to proceed.
Witnesses described Zagorski as smiling sometimes during the process. All witnesses said his last words were, “Let’s rock.”
Witnesses also said they saw communication between Zagorski and his attorney, Public Defender Kelly Henry. Some of that communication included him raising his eyebrows and smiling, and Henry placing her hand over heart.
“I told him when I place my hand over my heart, that’s me telling him I’m keeping him in my heart,” said Henry.
Henry said the eyebrow-raising and smiling was his way of telling her to smile because that’s the last thing he wanted to see.
“I asked him the last thing he wanted to see, and he said he wanted to see me smiling,” said Henry.
She also said it wasn’t right that her client had to choose between two inhumane ways of dying.
Zagorski is only the second person put to death by electrocution in Tennessee since 1960. Daryl Holton chose to die in the electric chair in 2007.
The execution was carried out after a legal battle that spanned a few weeks over Zagorski’s decision to use the electric chair instead of lethal injection.
The original execution date was set for Oct. 11, but a 10-day reprieve from Governor Haslam was given so that the Department of Corrections could make sure the electric chair was fully operational.
The 63-year-old man was on death row for 34 years, which was the second longest in Tennessee.
He was sentenced in the killings of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter.
Prosecutors said Zagorski shot the men and slit their throats after robbing them in April 1983. The victims had planned to buy marijuana from Zagorski.
David Earl Miller is the next inmate scheduled to be executed in Tennessee. That execution is scheduled for Dec. 6.