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Tenn. readies electrocution for killer of 4

NASHVILLE -- If confessed murderer Daryl Keith Holton gets his way, tomorrow he will become the first prisoner in 46 years to die in Tennessee's electric chair.

Holton, who confessed to murdering his three young sons and his former wife's daughter within hours of shooting them to death in 1997 with a semiautomatic assault rifle, is scheduled to be executed because he quit appealing his death sentence. He also chose the electric chair over the state's preferred method of lethal injection.

Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction, said that even though the state has not used the electric chair to carry out an execution in decades, staff members at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville are trained in using the chair and are ready to carry out the execution.

From 1916 until 1960, 125 people were executed by electrocution in Tennessee. In 2000, lethal injection replaced electrocution as the primary method of execution. Under Tennessee law, death row inmates can choose between the electric chair and lethal injection if their crimes were committed before 1999.

Stephen Ferrell, Holton's federal public defender, is trying to get the federal courts to stop the execution on the grounds that Holton isn't mentally competent. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is expected to rule today on a request for a stay.

Ferrell also is appealing a ruling earlier this month from a federal judge in Knoxville that Holton's case didn't merit a full evidentiary hearing on his competency.

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