The possible return of "Old Sparky"

Reported by: Erik Avanier
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Updated: 3/17/2014 6:46 pm
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee/(WDEF) - Many Chattanooga residents have mixed reactions over a proposal to bring back the electric chair as law makers consider a bill to electrocute condemned prisoners.

The proposal to return the electric chair to Tennessee death row is the result of a European-led boycott on sales of chemicals used in American prisons that execute inmates by lethal injection. It's a proposal with mixed reviews.

"We're not god. We don't have that right to make that decision of who lives or dies," said Chattanooga resident Angel Headrick.

"I think it's a fine idea. I think it would resolve a lot of problems," said Dale Powell.

"It's a terrible idea. The death penalty is bad and it's wrong no matter what you do," said Travis White.

"Well some of them need it. They need to bring it back. There's a lot of people who need to be put to death," said Garry Durham.

The return of "Old Sparky"  may ultimately lead to a return of the the debate over what's considered cruel and unusual punishment. WDEF spoke to defense attorney Jerry Summers about that topic.

"It's been a question that's been argued back and forth. The public is between whether it's for or against it during different times. It's an election year and I think there some political grand-standing by the Tennessee General Assembly because no one wants say they want to be soft on a person who's been sentenced to death," Summers said.

Then there's the argument over the electric chair becoming a deterrent for violent crime. Tennessee hasn't executed a convicted murderer since 2009 and that was by lethal injection. The last time the state used the electric chair was in 2007. Since then, cities like Chattanooga and Memphis have seen a significant increase in murders.

"I think it will be a deterrent. I think it will make people think twice about the outcome of what's to happen instead of just sitting in jail for ever and ever and having meals and everything else. I think it will be a deterrent," said Chattanooga resident Denise Grant.

WDEF contacted District Attorney General Bill Cox to get his opinion on the proposal but he refused to comment.

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