Prison Officials Waiting Until Last Minute To Unplug Electric Chair

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's retired electric chair won't be removed from the death house at the Lucasville prison until just before convicted killer John Byrd Jr. is executed by lethal injection.

Corrections officials say that's just in case Byrd, through some unexpected legal twist, gets his wish to die in the electric chair.

Byrd, 38, is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 19 for the 1983 slaying of a suburban Cincinnati convenience store clerk during a robbery. Prison officials said the 105-year-old electric chair will be unplugged, unbolted and removed a few days before that.

Lawmakers last year eliminated the electric chair as a means of execution. Condemned prisoners previously had the option of choosing between electrocution and injection.

Byrd had said he wanted to die in the most gruesome way possible to protest the death penalty. He has said he is innocent and Byrd's lawyers have claimed another man convicted in the robbery and slaying stabbed the clerk.

No decision has been made yet, but the chair probably will be turned over to the Ohio Historical Society, said state Corrections Director Reginald Wilkinson.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)