David Earl Miller Executed in 1981 Tennessee Killing of Mentally Disabled Woman

'Beats being on death row,' he finally said
December 7, 2018 Updated: December 7, 2018

A Tennessee death row inmate who was convicted of killing a woman in 1981 was executed via the electric chair on Dec. 6.

David Earl Miller, 61, was pronounced dead at around 7:25 p.m. on Dec. 6, at a Nashville maximum-security prison, CBS News reported. He’s the second person to be executed by the electric chair in several weeks.

Before the execution, Miller was asked about his final words. He then said execution “beats being on death row.” According to Fox News, his final meal was fried chicken, coffee, and mashed potatoes.

Miller brutally killed Lee Standifer, 23, while the two were on a date. After he was convicted, Miller spent 36 years on death row—the longest in state history. Reports indicated that Standifer was a mentally disabled woman.

Miller and fellow death row inmate Edmund Zagorski both chose the chair over lethal injection, claiming that the electric chair is a more humane way to die. They claimed the state’s usage of midazolam causes a prolonged and torturous death, CBS noted, pointing to the August execution of Billy Ray Irick, which took some 20 minutes.

Their cases were thrown out, and a judge said they failed to prove there was a more humane alternative. Zagorski was put to death on Nov. 1.

Georgia and Nebraska courts both have ruled the electric chair is unconstitutional.

lee standifer is dead
David Earl Miller was convicted of killing Lee Standifer, 23, in 1981 in Knoxville. (Helen Standifer via AP)

On Thursday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Miller’s final appeals to stay the execution. “Such madness should not continue. Respectfully, I dissent,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the Miller case, The Guardian reported.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam declined to intervene.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa Taylor, before the execution, read a brief statement from an anonymous woman in Ohio.

Taylor read, “After a long line of victims he has left, it is time to be done. It is time for him to pay for what he has done to Lee,” according to the New York Post.

Assistant Federal Community Defender Kissinger issued a statement.

“(Miller) cared deeply for Lee Standifer, and she would be alive today if it weren’t for a sadistic stepfather and a mother who violated every trust that a son should have,” Kissinger said.

Details of the Slaying

The Tennesseean reported on the killing: “An autopsy report determined he struck her twice with a fire poker and then stabbed her repeatedly. Miller later told police that Standifer, whom he had given alcohol, grabbed him and sent him into a blind rage when he told her he was leaving town.”

“I turned around and hit her,” Miller confessed, adding: “She quit breathing. … (I) drug her downstairs through the basement and out through the yard and pulled her over into the woods.”

His attorneys said he lashed out at her after a psychotic break, saying he had pent-up anger because he was abused as a child.

Lee Standifer’s mother, Helen Standifer, spoke to USA Today after Miller was dead.

“At some point, everybody has to take responsibility for their actions,” she said.