- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014
APNewsBreak: Tennessee brings back electric chair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee has decided to bring back the electric chair.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday signed a bill into law allowing the state to electrocute death row inmates in the event the state is unable to obtain drugs used for lethal injections.

Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the electric chair legislation in April, with the Senate voting 23-3 and the House 68-13 in favor of the bill.

Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Tennessee is the first state to enact a law to reintroduce the electric chair without giving prisoners an option.

“There are states that allow inmates to choose, but it is a very different matter for a state to impose a method like electrocution,” he said. “No other state has gone so far.”

Dieter said he expects legal challenges to arise if the state decides to go through with an electrocution, both in terms of whether the state could prove that lethal injection drugs were not obtainable and on the grounds of constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

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Man pleads guilty to killing 2 postal workers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A former corrections officer pleaded guilty Thursday to fatally shooting two workers at a rural Tennessee post office in a deal that allows him to avoid the death penalty and spend the rest of his life in prison.

Chastain Montgomery, 50, changed his plea to guilty in a deal with prosecutors during a hearing before U.S. Senior District Judge Jon P. McCalla in Memphis. The deal was authorized by Attorney General Eric Holder, said Edward Stanton, U.S. attorney for West Tennessee.

Montgomery will be sentenced to life in prison Aug. 12. There is no parole in the federal system.

Montgomery struggled to answer several questions from McCalla during the hearing, consulting with his lawyers for guidance. But when he was asked by the judge if he felt OK, Montgomery smiled and replied, “I feel pretty good.”

Montgomery was charged with shooting Paula Robinson and Judy Spray during an October 2010 robbery of the post office in Henning, about 45 miles northeast of Memphis. Their relatives stared sternly at Montgomery during the hearing.

Prosecutors said Montgomery and his 18-year-old son tried to rob the post office, but they became angry and began shooting after they realized it had just $63 to steal.

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