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Sotomayor Dissents in Another Electric Chair Appeal

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Justice Sonya Sotomayor has issued another dissent in a case involving another death row inmate opting for the electric chair over a lethal injection as his preference for execution. And while the ink was barely dry on the page, David Miller was executed.

The impassioned Justice explains in a brief page-and-a-half dissent, that the very idea that Miller's choice was voluntary is a "fiction." She further explains that the inmate should not have been required to show other "available alternative means of his own execution." In a footnote, the Justice quotes another court's finding that "electrocution will unquestionably inflict intolerable pain unnecessary to cause death in enough executions so as to present a substantial risk that any prisoner will suffer unnecessary and wanton pain."


In closing, Justice Sotomayor pleads that "Such madness should not continue." This sentiment, based on her brief reasoning seems bulletproof. The Justice explains that even though the electric chair has already been deemed unnecessarily painful, that there is "credible scientific evidence that lethal injection as currently practiced in Tennessee may well be even worse." And that this is why Miller's choice isn't really a choice at all.

Miller has now become the second person executed by electric chair this country in the last 5 years, just one month after Edmund Zagorski, who also opted for the chair over the lethal injection, and also lost his High Court appeal. Justice Sotomayor dissented in the Zagorski matter as well, and also called out her colleagues for making the mistake of not taking the case up.

Notably, Zagorski's execution did not go smoothly. He could be seen breathing after the first jolt, and strained so hard he broke a finger. Even the designer of the electric chair believed the device to be cruel because it has a high rate of failure.

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