Edmund George Zagorski
December 27, 1954
|Died||November 1, 2018 (aged 63)|
|Cause of death||Execution by electrocution|
|Other names||Jesse Lee Hardin|
|Criminal status||Executed by electric chair|
|Conviction(s)||Two counts of first degree murder|
(March 2, 1984)
|Criminal penalty||Death (March 27, 1984)|
|Victims||John Dale Dotson, 35|
James Wayne "Jimmy" Porter, 32
|Date||April 23, 1983|
|Location(s)||Robertson County, Tennessee|
Edmund George Zagorski (December 27, 1954 – November 1, 2018) was an American convicted murderer from Michigan who was executed by the state of Tennessee for the 1983 murders of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter in Robertson County. Zagorski, then 28, had lured the two men into a wooded hunting ground under the pretense of selling them 100 pounds of marijuana – before shooting them and slitting their throats.
The state of Tennessee made multiple attempts to execute Zagorski over the course of nearly a decade. Ultimately, he became the first inmate legally executed by electrocution in almost six years in the United States on November 1, 2018.
Edmund George Zagorski was born in Michigan on December 27, 1954, and spent most of his childhood in Tecumseh. He grew up in an impoverished family, suffered from both an unnamed learning disability and a bad stutter, and did not finish high school. By the time of the murders that put him on death row, he had trained to become a ship captain.
Murders of Dotson and Porter
Zagorski first met John Dale Dotson (1947–1983), a logger from Hickman County, Tennessee, on April 5, 1983 at a trout farm. Zagorski introduced himself to Dotson and his wife Marsha under the guise of being a mercenary based in Central America named Jesse Lee Hardin. Zagorski convinced Dotson that he would be able to supply as much as 100 pounds of marijuana at a price of around $25,000 as early as April 21. Following this, the two scheduled a meeting in a wooded hunting ground in Robertson County for 6pm on Saturday, April 23, 1983.
Before he left to meet Zagorski on April 23, Dotson was described by his wife Marsha as "at least somewhat hesitant" and allegedly asked her to call a friend if he failed to return that night. After leaving, he met his friend James "Jimmy" Porter (1950–1983) at Porter's tavern, near to the arranged meeting location. Dotson had a change of clothes, a backpack and a revolver. The two men promptly left in Porter's truck to meet Zagorski.
At around 5:30 pm, the owner of the trout farm where Zagorski and Dotson first met heard gunshots coming from the area where he knew the three men had arranged to meet. However, little action was taken as gunshots were common in the area due to deer hunting. Just shy of two weeks later, on 6 May, the bodies of Dotson and Porter were found in that same wooded area – the bodies had decomposed quickly, in part due to a burgeoning heat wave, however it was concluded that both men had been shot and their throats had been slit. Ballistics tests matched a bullet casing found at the scene to a gun owned by Zagorski.
Arrest, interrogation, and trial
In late April, days after the murders, Zagorski arrived at a friend's house in Ohio. The friend in question observed that Zagorski was in possession of numerous items belonging to Dotson and Porter, including Porter's red Datsun truck, as well as a large amount of money. Zagorski was ultimately arrested on May 26, 1983 following a shootout with Ohio police, during which he shot a number of officers, before he himself was shot, subdued, and arrested.
Zagorski offered a confession to the murders on July 17, 1983, nearly two months after his arrest, on the condition that he could dictate the terms and date of his execution; a death sentence was mandatory for a capital murder conviction in Tennessee at the time. This came during a heat wave in the area, as well as the fact that Zagorski was placed in solitary confinement in an unventilated 8 × 8-foot (2.44 × 2.44-m) cell despite a court order forbidding it. During the trial, no defense witnesses were called and no evidence was presented by the defense team during the penalty portion of the trial before the jury returned to deliver its verdict.
Ultimately, Zagorski was convicted of murdering Dotson and Porter on March 2, 1984, and on March 27, 1984, he was sentenced to death by electrocution.
Litigation and execution
On February 15, 2018, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery requested that the Tennessee Supreme Court (TNSC) set execution dates for 8 death row inmates, including Zagorski, to take place on or before June 1, 2018. Exactly a month later, on March 15, the TNSC responded by denying the specific request made by Slatery and by setting execution dates for two of the eight inmates - as such, Zagorski was scheduled for execution on October 11, 2018, which was at least his third since arrival on death row, while another inmate, David Miller, was scheduled to be executed on December 6. Miller was also executed by electrocution as scheduled.
On October 5, 2018, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam refused to intervene in Zagorski's case. On October 8, the TNSC also refused to stay Zagorski's execution on the grounds of a challenge to the state's lethal injection protocol.
Mere hours after the TNSC refused to hear Zagorski's case on October 8, 2018, Zagorski requested that he be executed with the state's electric chair, which had last been used over a decade earlier in the September 2007 execution of Daryl Holton.  The Tennessee Department of Correction refused the request on October 9, pointing out that Zagorski had waited too long to make such a request and had been asked whether he wanted to reconsider the method of his execution six months in advance. On October 10, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Zagorski's execution on the grounds of ineffective counsel. In addition, on the morning of October 11, Judge Aleta A. Trauger, a judge serving on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, stayed Zagorski's execution pending appeals of a ruling in a lawsuit against the Department of Correction regarding the state's lethal injection protocol. Finally, shortly before Zagorski was to be executed, Governor Haslam granted a 10-day executive reprieve (until October 21) with the purpose of allowing the Department of Correction to prepare the electric chair. Both of the stays granted by federal courts were overturned by the United States Supreme Court on October 12.
On October 22, 2018, one day after the reprieve granted by Haslam expired, the TNSC reset Zagorski's execution date to November 1. By October 29, Judge Trauger had rejected all appeals filed to her court by Zagorski's legal team, but granted a restraining order that same day requiring that Zagorski's lawyer, Kelley Henry, would be allowed access to a phone during Zagorski's execution. The state agreed to honour this caveat at around midday on November 1. In addition, a series of appeals were denied by the Sixth Circuit on October 30 and 31. At around 4pm on November 1, 2018, Zagorski ate a final meal of pickled ham hock and pig tails - he had previously rejected a special last meal ahead of his October 11 execution date. Finally, minutes before 7pm that same day, the United States Supreme Court refused to grant Zagorski a stay of execution.
Zagorski was ultimately executed by electrocution on Thursday, November 1, 2018 at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, being pronounced dead at 7:26 pm CDT. Zagorski was the first inmate legally electrocuted in nearly six years since the January 2013 execution of Robert Gleason in Virginia, the second inmate executed in Tennessee since executions resumed there in August 2018 and, with the electrocution of David Earl Miller on December 6, 2018, the first of two inmates electrocuted in Tennessee in 2018. When asked, his last words were reportedly, “Let’s rock”.
- Capital punishment in Tennessee
- List of offenders executed in the United States in 2018
- List of offenders scheduled to be executed in the United States
- List of people executed in Tennessee
- Robert Gleason – Last person executed in the United States by electrocution before Zagorski
- Daryl Holton – Last person executed in Tennessee by electrocution before Zagorski
- Billy Ray Irick – Last person executed in Tennessee by any means (lethal injection) before Zagorski
- "Death Row Offenders". www.tn.gov. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
- "Edmund Zagorski – Execution Warrant – 1 November 2018" (PDF). October 22, 2018. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
- "Watch live: Edmund Zagorski execution press conference". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
- "Reprieve – Edmund Zagorski" (PDF). reprieve.org.uk. November 1, 2010. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
- Horst, J.D. "Tennessee Gives Ed Zagorski New Execution Date of November 1, 2018". www.theforgivenessfoundation.org. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
- "Tennessee inmate convicted in 1983 double murder fights for his life as Oct. 11 execution nears". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
- Young, Nicole (October 11, 2018). "Edmund Zagorski spent 34 years behind bars with no visitors. He's scheduled to be executed Thursday". Tennessean. Nashville Tennessean. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- "Tennessee Supreme Court denies AG's request for 8 executions by June 1". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
- WVLT. "Gov. Haslam said he won't intervene in Zagorski death penalty case". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
- "Prison officials 'refusing' to use electric chair, death row inmate's lawyer says". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
- "Daryl Keith Holton #1097". www.clarkprosecutor.org. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
- "US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals – Stay of Execution for Edmund Zagorski, 11 October 2018" (PDF). uscourts.gov. October 10, 2018. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
- "New date set for death row inmate Edmund Zagorski's execution by electric chair". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- "Zagorski attorney granted phone access, clearing way for Thursday's execution". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- "Edmund Zagorski's execution to proceed after federal appellate court denies his legal challenge". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- "Zagorski execution: Death row inmate chooses last meal, unlike last time". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- "Upcoming Executions | Death Penalty Information Center". deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
- Tennessee executes Edmund Zagorski by electric chair