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'Let's rock' Inmate Edmund Zagorski's last words before Tennessee electric chair execution

Edmund Zagorski (Tennessee Department of Corrections)

The state of Tennessee executed an inmate by electrocution Thursday night for the first time since 2007.

Edmund Zagorski was set to die at 7 p.m. at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, but was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m. Witness accounts of the execution reported Zagorski's last words as "Let's rock."


When the blinds to the execution chamber opened, Zagorski could be seen strapped into the electric chair wearing a yellow shirt with white Tennessee Department of Correction shorts with a dark stripe down the side.

Media witnesses reported that Zagorski "seemed to be in good spirits" and kept a smile on his face before the large sponge and helmet were placed on his head.

The death row inmate grimaced when excess saline water ran down his face, which was wiped up by guards. Soon after authorities re-dampened the sponges around Zagorski's feet, a thick black cord was plugged into a power source.


Witnesses said a calm sort of smile was on Zagorski's face before the shroud was placed over it. The warden reportedly wiped his hand over his face as the signal.

Witnesses reported when the electric current started, a sound similar to voltage of an elevator moving could be heard. As the first jolt of electricity ran through his body, witnesses said the convicted killer stiffened and rose up against the restraints. His body remained in fists with his pinky finger on the edge of the chair during the second jolt as the voltage flowed to end his life.


“It’s a serious, somber thing to be in that room. It was all over fairly quickly and seemed to be done in a professional way,” one media witness commented.

One of Zagorski's attorneys, Kelley Henry, addressed media outlets following the execution. Henry said her client wanted his final day to have a "light mood." Zagorski told Henry the last thing he wanted to see was a smile on her face, so she said she kept trying to smile during the electrocution. She mentioned to her client that when she held her hand over her heart, the action symbolized her holding him in her heart.

Henry claims she heard Zagorski tell the guards he had no hard feelings toward them as he was being extracted from his holding cell. She said when Zagorski was escorted into the execution chamber that he told her to keep her chin up.


With strong emotion, Henry said Zagorski's body was "rigid" during the execution and "every nerve was on fire." She said she focused on watching his hands and stomach during the "barbarous act."

“Mr. Zagorski spent the last 34 years on death row living as a model inmate even saving the life of a guard," Henry said. “The world is not safer because of his execution and justice was not served tonight.”

The death row inmate was convicted of shooting and slitting the throats of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter, of Robertson County, during a marijuana deal in 1983.

The convicted killer received his last meal of pickled pig knuckles and pig tails at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Zagorski opted for the electric chair instead of lethal injection following a slew of legal battles questioning whether the state’s three-drug cocktail is constitutional and humane. The State Supreme Court upheld that the state’s current and only lethal injection protocol is constitutional in early October.


Governor Bill Haslam denied clemency for Zagorski on Oct. 5, but granted the death row inmate a 10-day reprieve from execution on Oct. 11 to prepare for Zagorski’s electrocution request.

Anti-death penalty groups across the state held vigils ahead of the execution. Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty gathered to protest Zagorski’s death in Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis.

Prior to Zagorski’s death, the state executed Billy Ray Irick on August 9 using the three-drug lethal injection protocol. He was convicted in the 1986 rape and murder of a young Knoxville girl he was babysitting.


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