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In the hot seat in Jackson, Ga.

Electric chair's humaneness called into question

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Georgia prison officials say they have no immediate plans to purchase lethal-injection equipment. Unless the state Supreme Court rules electrocution unconstitutional, it will be at least 12 years before lethal injection debuts, according to Department of Corrections spokesman Scott Stallings. That's because a capital crime will take months if not a year or more to reach trial. The appeals process can last more than a decade for an inmate on death row, where the average length of stay is 12 to 15 years.

"The electric chair is going to be here," Stallings says. "We're going to be in this business a while."

Since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1976, about 320 men and one woman have been sentenced in Georgia to death by electrocution. Of them, 128 are on death row, 23 have been electrocuted, six were later found not guilty, three died awaiting execution, and the rest -- approximately half -- had their sentences reduced.

No one has died in the Jackson death chamber since June 1998. In late August, Alex Williams came close. Two days before his scheduled execution, the state Supreme Court granted a stay of Williams' execution because the justices were waiting, in another case, to rule on the constitutionality of the electric chair. They must make that decision by the end of their term, in about a month.

No one currently is scheduled to die in Jackson, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

"We just follow the mandates," says Turpin, who was warden during Georgia's last three executions. "People ask me often, 'Are you for capital punishment?' I'm not paid for my opinion. That's not my job."

mara.shalhoup@creativeloafing.com

 

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