Tennessee Reinstates Electric Chair

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By Ed Payne

(CNN) — Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday signed a bill allowing Tennessee to electrocute death row inmates when the state is unable to obtain lethal injection drugs.

With the governor’s signature, Tennessee becomes the first state to make it mandatory to use the electric chair when lethal injection drugs are unavailable, said Richard Dieter, the president of the Death Penalty Information Center.

“This is unusual and might be both cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Other states allow for use of the electric chair, but at the inmate’s discretion.

“No state says what Tennesse says. This is forcing the inmate to use electrocution,” according to Dieter, who believes “the inmate would have an automatic Eighth Amendment challenge.”

The amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment.

“The electric chair is clearly a brutal alternative,” Deiter said.

Controversy over lethal injections has been brewing in recent years after European manufacturers, including the Denmark-based manufacturer of pentobarbital, banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions.

In 2009, the U.S.-based manufacturer of sodium thiopental, a drug also commonly used in executions, stopped making the painkiller.

Many states have scrambled to find products from overseas or have used American-based compounding pharmacies to create substitutes.

CNN’s Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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