Edmund Zagorski will be tied to a bed similar to this one before he is injected with three drugs. Picture: Nate Jenkins/AP
Edmund Zagorski will be tied to a bed similar to this one before he is injected with three drugs. Picture: Nate Jenkins/AP

‘Burn’: Man faces execution torture

NOBODY quite knows exactly what Edmund Zagorski will experience on October 11, when a three-drug cocktail enters his system.

The double murderer will be strapped to a bed in Tennessee as Midazolam - a sedative - begins to take its effect. What's happens next is the subject of conjecture.

Either Zagorski, 63, will be out cold and unaware of the second and third drugs coursing through his veins. Or he'll feel it all, a torture his lawyers say is "hideous".

"(He) will drown in his own fluids, suffocate as if buried alive, and then be burned by chemical fire," Kelley Henry, lawyer for 33 inmates on Tennessee's death row, argued in documents filed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

"If an inmate is able to feel the effects of the second and third drugs in a three-drug protocol, then that protocol is constitutionally intolerable," she said.

The problem for lawyers - and for Zagorski - is that Tennessee does not promise the execution will be painless.

It certainly wasn't for Billy Ray Irick, who murdered Paula Dyer when she was a little girl. According to Nashville Scene reporter Steven Hale, who witnessed the execution in August, Irick's final moments appeared to be "excruciating".

"Every part of this story is suitable for a nightmare …" he wrote.


Edmund Zagorski is to be executed this week.
Edmund Zagorski is to be executed this week.

"Midazolam, they say, cannot spare a person from the effect of the next two drugs.

"For that reason, they considered it almost a certainty that Irick would feel what happened next, that it would be excruciating, and that, because the second drug is a paralytic, he would be largely unable to show it.

"He jolted and produced what sounded like a cough or a choking noise. He moved his head slightly and appeared to briefly strain his forearms against the restraint."

Mr Hale wrote that Irick's face turned purple and he didn't breathe for 10 minutes before the blinds around the execution chamber were drawn and the killer was pronounced dead.

As Supreme Court judges weigh up the pros and cons of lethal injection, time is running out for Zagorski. Without an intervention, he will be put to death on Thursday at 7pm.

The crime that landed Zagorski on death row rocked the state in 1984. According to court records, the then-28-year-old convinced two strangers - Jimmy Porter and John Dale Dotson - to follow him into the woods for a drug deal.

Zagorski told the pair he had contacts in Central America and could get them 100 pounds (45kgs) of marijuana at a rate that would make them rich.

Mr Dotson told his wife Marsha that he was suspicious and that she should call a friend if he did not return home from the meeting with Zagorski in the woods at Hickman County,

Police say the two men were robbed, had their throats slit and were left to die. Zagorski fled in Mr Dotson's car and was tracked down in Ohio a month later.

He didn't go down without a fight. He engaged police in a shootout and left an officer with several gunshot wounds.

Zagorski's confession was the result of months spent in solitary confinement in an "unbearable metal box" where temperatures reached 48C, according to court documents filed in March.

The documents claim he was "tortured" into admitting to the murders.

"For nearly two months, Ed Zagorski was caged ... in an eight by eight food steel room," the documents states.

"Having been broken by unbearable circumstances, Ed Zagorski wanted to make sure he could end his suffering. To that end, at the peak of the heatwave, he sent a note saying he needed to speak to (the Sheriff).

"His blood pressure had skyrocketed to 150/90, he had a migraine headache, his extremities were numb and he couldn't sleep.

"His message to (the Sheriff) was simple: 'If you'll let me pick the type of execution and the day of execution, I'll confess to these murders.'"

After Zagorski, there is expected to be one more execution in Tennessee this year. David Earl Miller, who killed a disabled girl in 1982, is scheduled to be executed on December 6.

Before Zagorski is executed, Texas is expected to execute 55-year-old Juan Segundo over the 1986 rape and murder of 11-year-old Vanessa Villa.

The girl was left home alone and Segundo snuck in to her bedroom through the window. She was found unconscious and half naked by her mother, but later died.

Segundo escaped capture until 2005 when technology allowed police to match semen found on Vanessa's bed to a national database.

The findings resulted in Segundo being implicated in another rape and murder in 1994, and a third in 1995.

He is scheduled to be executed on October 10.

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