Roy Exum: An Execution

Thursday, October 11, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
(NOTE: After this story was written, a federal appeals court in a very surprising move granted a request to delay Edmund Zagorski’s execution late Wednesday night, which was scheduled for Thursday. While the result of the order remains uncertain, it is possible the Supreme Court could rule on the delay and the execution could move forward.
Zagorski’s attorneys had asked federal courts to reconsider unexamined claims of ineffective trial counsel.  The federal district court in Nashville rejected that argument Tuesday but a panel of 6th Circuit judges said the argument was provocative enough to merit full consideration.To do that, they said, a stay was necessary.)

In the 34 years that Edmund Zagorski has been on death row in Nashville’s Riverbend Maximum Security prison, two very distinct things have never happened.  He has never been “written up” for any untoward behavior -- not once -- and, after murdering two men in a botched drug deal in 1984, he has never had one visitor. Not one. Tonight, barring an eleventh-hour stay, he is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection.

For much of my adult life, I have been torn by mankind’s greatest question – should we have the death penalty? I thought Governor Bill Haslam may grant clemency earlier this week. That Zagorski has been a model prisoner, that he’s endured a 34-year wait due to 22 separate appeals, and because “life without parole” wasn’t an option when he was sentenced, I figured the 63-year-old finally might catch a break.

For whatever reason, Tennessee’s governor decided against interfering with the sentence and I thank God that such a decision didn’t fall on me for judgement. Let’s not kid ourselves, Zagorski killed two men in cold blood, later slit their throats, and shot a lawman once he was cornered in Ohio. A judge and a jury in Robertson County sentenced him to death and I believe that’s well within the law, in Tennessee as well as 32 other states.

Then again, I totally disagree that justice was served by forcing him to sit in solitary confinement for over half of his life. I believe that is torture – a horrid whipping of psychological proportion – yet it is part of the progress to make sure the killer is treated fairly, and that we don’t kill the innocent. I don’t know how to get around such an abomination but to finally kill a man after keeping him in an 8 foot by 10 cell for three and a half decades isn’t right in my eyes, nor in the sight of anyone I know.

What is right? In June of this year a judge in California sentenced a man to die for brutally torturing an eight-year-old to death. In decency I will spare you the sadistic details but I really feel strongly that I could take my station in a firing squad to rid this world of such twisted vermin. I could pull my trigger with no qualms – so help me I could -- yet try to champion as many “second chances” as I can find.

Yes, the death penalty is one of my biggest inward struggles. Could I sentence death when there was no killing? I really wonder. How about a 9/11 terrorist? In a heartbeat. How about a college rapist? I would need to know more. What if the girl was 15? Hand me my rifle. Obviously my death vote would be case-by-case but we should be like other countries – fulfill the sentence promptly.

Graham Reside, an ethics and society professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, told a reporter in Nashville, "It's a question of authority," Reside explained. "Where do you place your authority?"

For instance, Evangelical Christians place theirs in the Bible instead of denominational leaders. Roman Catholics put theirs in scripture as well as church teachings.

And what makes it even harder? “The Bible is ambiguous on the death penalty," said Reside. “That means believers can interpret scripture to be both in support of and against it,” he said.

The majority of Americans support the death penalty. Fifty-four percent said they favor it for those convicted of murder, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April and May.

Not so long ago a Pew Research Center report found 54 percent of Americans agreed the death penalty could be used in capital murder cases and, yes, religion plays a big role in the thought process:

* -- 73 percent of white evangelical Protestants support the death penalty; 19 percent oppose it.

* -- 61 percent of white mainline Protestants support it; 30 percent oppose it.

* -- 53 percent of Catholics support it; 42 percent oppose it.

* -- 45 percent of the religiously unaffiliated support it; 48 percent oppose it.

* -- Less than half of black Protestants (37%) and Hispanic Catholics (43%) favor the death penalty.

In the last few days Zagorski petitioned the court for death by the electric chair after there was some belief a recent execution by injection didn’t work and the victim suffered before death. Some believe the request was a last-second ploy by Zagorski’s attorney and the request was denied. As this is written, Zagorski has about 24 hours to live after sitting on death row for 34 years.

He has turned down a “final meal” and has said he is glad it is almost over, a sentiment lost on no one.

royexum@aol.com


Alcohol Is Not Needed At McKenzie Arena - And Response

Chivalry Is Not Dead

Testing Transparency Is Needed For Tennessee


To start off with I am not opposed to the consumption of adult beverages in moderation and having a designated driver available. I attended the University of Chattanooga before and after UT arrived. ... (click for more)

On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 26, I was driving up Lookout Mountain taking my mother home. My 2-year-old granddaughter was also along for the ride. Halfway up Ochs Highway in the middle of ... (click for more)

Thomas Jefferson believed: “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” We could not agree more. In Tennessee, our state agencies have a core function to serve the citizen’s ... (click for more)


Opinion

Alcohol Is Not Needed At McKenzie Arena - And Response

To start off with I am not opposed to the consumption of adult beverages in moderation and having a designated driver available. I attended the University of Chattanooga before and after UT arrived. Fraternities used to bring mini-kegs to Chamberlain Field during football games and plenty of people brown bagged. There was probably to much drinking going on. I know I was immoderate ... (click for more)

Chivalry Is Not Dead

On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 26, I was driving up Lookout Mountain taking my mother home. My 2-year-old granddaughter was also along for the ride. Halfway up Ochs Highway in the middle of a blind curve, at rush hour, my car simply died. Smoke poured out from under the hood, and we were completely stranded. There was a long line of cars stuck behind us unable to go around because ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Arrive Logistics To Expand In Chattanooga With 500 More Jobs, $3.6 Million Investment

Arrive Logistics officials announced Thursday that the company will expand its operations in Chattanooga. The logistics company will invest approximately $3.6 million into the region and create 500 new jobs in Hamilton County. Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Arrive Logistics is a technology-enabled, growth-focused freight brokerage who serves shipper and ... (click for more)

Chattanooga And St. George, Utah Announced As Finalists For 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Triathlon

IRONMAN announced on Thursday that Chattanooga and St. George, Utah have been named finalists to host the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship triathlon, which will rotate back to the United States of America after last playing host to the event in 2017. The 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship will be a two-day event, a format that was first adopted in 2017 when the event was held ... (click for more)

Sports

Gathering of ‘Scrappy’s Boys’ Celebrate Wright’s Arrival As UTC Coach

For the better part of the past 25 years, there has been a monthly gathering of former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga letterman who value the common thread they all share. The group refers to themselves as “Scrappy’s Boys”, honoring the late Moc football coach A.C. “Scrappy” Moore for whom many of them played during his 37-year coaching tenure in Chattanooga. The get-togethers ... (click for more)

Homer-Happy Baylor Wins 10-6 Slugfest With McCallie

If you were looking for a pitcher’s dual, McCallie’s baseball field wasn’t the place to be Wednesday night. If you wanted to see a lot of offense and a bunch of home runs, then maybe you should have come. Whatever the case, Baylor remained unbeaten after scoring 10 runs for the second straight day. Improving to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in region play, four different Red Raiders ... (click for more)