Daryl Holton, a 47 year old Gulf War veteran said to possibly be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, was executed by the State of Tennessee early this morning at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
An executioner threw a switch that sent 1750 volts of electricity through Holton's body for 20 seconds, paused for 15 seconds, and then shocked the condemned inmate again for 15 more seconds. Holton was pronounced dead at 1:25 AM. He requested no special last meal, and his final words were "I do."
Holton confessed to murdering his three young sons and a step-daughter with an assault rifle in 1997. According to the Tennessee Coalition Against State Killing, Holton had a long history of mental illness, dating back to his time in the military when they say he spent a month in a psychiatric hospital. They also say he had inadequate representation at his trial, and later refused to participate in any appeals.
All of which is no comfort to his ex-wife and the mother of the children he killed, who he had also planned to kill until he turned himself in and confessed to the crimes.
More recently he notified the state of his request to die by electrocution instead of lethal injection. State law provides the option for anyone convicted of a capital crime prior to 1999. Holton reasoned that the electric chair was the penalty in effect at the time of his crimes in 1997, so that's what he chose. The last electrocution by the state of Tennessee was in 1960.
There were concerns that the electric chair would not work correctly. According to the Nashville Tennesseean:
...Fred Leuchter, the man who built the chair in 1989, has asked Gov. Phil Bredesen not to use it, saying it's been modified in such a way that it will be "tantamount to torture."
"It's going to be the most horrible way to die possible," said Leuchter, of Malden, Mass. He worries the modified chair will take far too long to kill Holton.
The engineer who modified the electric chair disagreed:
Leuchter's electric chair was modified in the 1990s by Jay Wiechert, an electrical engineer from Fort Smith, Ark., who has worked on electric chairs for many states.
Tennessee's chair will work as intended, said Wiechert, who modified the controls, increased the voltage and changed the protective devices so it would stay on and provide adequate current.
"I have confidence in the equipment," he said. "The technique has been around. We've been using the same technique since over a century ago, 110 years or so. It's a very well-known science. We're not doing anything new."
The electric chair was tested on Monday, by "running currents through a test load box that is designed to simulate a human body," according to a Tennessee Department of Corrections spokesperson.
Apparently it worked.