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Death-row inmate awaits court rulings, clemency decision

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee death row inmate was waiting Wednesday to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court or the governor would halt his Thursday execution in the electric chair.

David Earl Miller was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of 23-year-old Lee Standifer in Knoxville. He has spent 36 years on death row, the longest of any Tennessee inmate.

In a clemency application delivered to Gov. Bill Haslam last week, Miller’s attorney argues that if Miller were tried today, he would not be sentenced to death “and it is likely he would not even be convicted of first-degree murder.”

Today, he would be given access to a mental health expert who could explain to the jury the effects of Miller’s childhood trauma, which included severe physical abuse by his step-father and both physical and sexual abuse by his mother, according to the petition.

The petition also says Miller was an unloved and neglected child who tried to commit suicide twice when very young. If those mitigating circumstances had been presented to the jury, the petition argues, they could have helped explain Miller’s attack on Standifer as an unplanned action by someone suffering from traumatic stress.

Haslam had not decided on the clemency petition as of Wednesday afternoon.

Separately, Miller has pending two last-minute petitions asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution.

Miller had been on a date with Standifer, who had mental disabilities, at the time of her slaying and the two were seen together around town the evening of May 20, 1981. The young woman’s body was found the next day in the yard of the home where Miller had been living.

On Wednesday, Miller selected a last meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and coffee. The Tennessee Department of Correction said David Earl Miller would be served the meal on Thursday afternoon. The 61-year-old inmate is scheduled to die in the electric chair at 7 p.m. that day.

Miller chose electrocution, as did Edmund Zagorski a month ago, after they lost a lawsuit claiming Tennessee’s midazolam-based lethal injection method causes a prolonged and torturous death.

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