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  • 23 May 2014, 6:39

Tennessee Backs Return To Electric Chair

Tennessee's governor has approved a plan to execute prisoners in the electric chair if the state is unable to obtain drugs for lethal injections.

Bill Haslam, a Republican, signed the measure into law after state legislators overwhelmingly backed the move.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Tennessee was the first state to authorise use of the electric chair without giving prisoners an option.

He said he expected legal challenges should the state decide to go through with an electrocution.

Four US states - Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama - currently allow execution by electric chair as an alternative to lethal injection.

Tennessee previously gave Death Row inmates who had committed crimes before 1999 the choice of whether they wanted to die by electric chair or lethal injection.

The last prisoner to be electrocuted was Daryl Holton, a Gulf War veteran who killed his three sons and a stepdaughter with a high-powered rifle in 1997. He was executed 10 years later.

Tennessee's decision comes amid controversy over the availability of drugs like pentobarbital for executions and questions over the effectiveness of alternatives.

The default method of execution in the US came under heightened scrutiny in April after Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett's vein collapsed and he died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes later.

The execution of another prisoner, Charles Warner - scheduled for two hours after Lockett's - was put on hold.

Authorities in Utah and Wyoming later said they were considering bringing back execution by firing squad to avoid the problems associated with lethal injections.

Thirty-two of the 50 states in the US currently have the death penalty.

Pentobarbital has become increasingly difficult to get hold of since its Danish manufacturer, Lundbeck, put restrictions on its sale to prevent it being used for executions.

This has prompted some states to use untested drugs in executions.

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