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Friday, June 30, 2006


so what will I do today - a reflection on life after death...

the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing…
attributed to edmund burke

at 2:12 am on june 28th the state of tennessee’s lethal cocktail took its toll on the body of sedley alley while his children april and david held hands and watched him take his last breath…

just moments before the lil’ jesuit dude re-entered our circle to announce that the dogged actions of the attorney general’s office had added to the state’s mounting homicide total, i had “given permission” to people to return home so as to make sure that they took care of themselves and their loved ones(many parents were in attendance who had small children at home with their spouse or partner)…

i stood in circle with the 50 remaining vigilers … only the beautiful minor key strummings of michael kelsh’s guitar cast ripples upon the silence of our witness … and alex’s cracking voice shared with us that april and david’s father had left this earth … and in the paralyzing moments of shock that followed i wondered what will become of this moment, this pointless execution, this misplaced and failed attempt to bring solace to those who were close to suzanne marie collins … and said to myself…

so what will i do today…

what will i do today that i did not yesterday or the day before that will add another brick to the construction of a movement that will end this shameful and futile policy…as the executive director of our state’s anti-death penalty organization what will i do that will make my efforts more efficient and more effective…

and i decided that while i will give myself the space and time to grieve this misstep, this mistake, this missed opportunity to address real needs rather than pander to our primal and fraudulent howls for revenge, i will also rededicate myself to the strategic aim of ending the state’s use of killing human beings as a legitimized policy response to the tragedy of murder…

and in the aftermath people came up to me and later wrote to me asking the same question of themselves…

so what will i do today…what step can i take to show that sedley alley, father to two new survivor’s of a homicide victims, did not die with my consent, did not die as the first domino in a line, did not die in vain…

and so i want to share with you some of the steps you can take, steps that you may not have taken yesterday but are willing, with the fresh taste of empty killing still bitter on your tongue, to take today to end this disgraceful and barren state policy…

so what will i do today…

here are 10 steps that you can take to build the movement to end executions in tennessee…

· send the e-mail addresses and names of 2 people to our office to help tcask build its contact, alert, and information distribution web…
· solicit and obtain an invitation for the lil’jesuit dude to make a presentation to your faith community
· sign up one (your) faith community for the national weekend of faith in action on the death penalty – they will receive a dvd of the documentary the empty chair
· become a member of tcask by visiting the website and click on the donate to tcask button (a secure paypal site) or e-mailing the office and ask that a membership form be sent to you
· visit the owner of a small business that you patronize … ask that owner to sign a resolution supporting a moratorium and send us the contact information to follow-up
· visit the tcask blog at least 3x/week to keep yourself up-to-date with what tcask is doing, what steps it is taking to build a grassroots power base, and developments in tennessee death row cases
· volunteer to help pass a municipal moratorium resolution in your city no matter the size of your city
· join the tcask board of director’s fundraising and development committee – you can work from home and participate in regular conference calls
· commit to writing a letter to the editor at least once a month and participating annually in the international death penalty abolition day write-a-thon from where you live
· write a letter to your state legislators quarterly using individual cases to demonstrate how they reveal specific problems with the death penalty system and explain, in simple terms, that it is a broken system

as i process what i experienced leading up to sedley alley’s death i’m led back again and again to the idea that each of you should feel empowered to act so that this execution, and any to follow, are not in vain….

so now i’ve taken a step today, in sharing this reflection with you, that i would not have taken prior to june 28th… as you process the feelings that shadow you in the aftermath of sedley alley’s unnecessary death ask yourself a fundamental question…

so what will i do today…

peace out - <3


family - reminds you of friendship ... reminds you of the power of love...

i think that it's important that as we process the fact of this killing of sedley alley by the state - and future killings that it has in the works - that we, as a community, embedded in the principles of non-violence and restoration of community, make the intentional and sincere effort to deepen those principles within our day-to-day actions ...

let me be the first to say that i have made mistakes and am sorry for having done so ... i ask for the forgiveness of members of my immediate and peripheral communities for my human transgressions and thank g_d for my sister who shows me every day, in ways both serious and playful, the power of love, forgiveness, and redemption ... thanks sis ... :-)

you decide into which category the following falls - enjoy!

peace out - <3

Tequila and Salt

This should probably be taped to your bathroom mirror where one could read it every day. You may not realize it, but it's 100% true.

1. There are at least two people in this world that you would die for.
2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.
3. The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.
4. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don't like you.
5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.
6. You mean the world to someone.
7. You are special and unique.
8. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.
9. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.
10. When you think the world has turned its back on you take another look.
11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

So...........If you are a loving friend, send this to everyone, including the one that sent it to you. If you get it back, then they really do love you...

And always remember....when life hands you Lemons, ask for tequila and salt and call me over!

Good friends are like stars........
You don't always see them,
But you know they are always there...

Whenever God Closes One Door He Always Opens Another, Even Though Sometimes It's Hell in the Hallway


solemn vigil night photos...

harry and karan simpson have become cornerstones of the local tcask group here in nashville coming to meetings, memorial anniversaries for robert glen coe honoring robert's family, taking tcask trainings, and lobbying their representatives...

harry is also a photographer and has posted a dozen photos he took out at riverbend maximum security institute vigil leading up to the state's taking the life of april mcintyre's and david alley's father sedley...

to view these photos click here ... and thank you harry...

peace out - <3

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The Day After

What do you do on the day after the state has murdered someone? We wake up to the same sunrise in the same bed. But something is different. Someone is missing in our world and they've been taken in all of our names. It's been difficult to get back to the day-to-day routine of work back here in the office, and I would imagine that it might be even harder for those of us whose daily work isn't directly involved with the death penalty.

In the wake of this execution, one of the things that we would like to do is remember this event, even as we try, as a state to heal. For this reason, we would ask that all those who've been affected by this execution, whether they witnessed it, vigiled with us at Riverbend or somewhere else in Tennessee, or simply watched their tvs in horror as the state perpetrated this crime, send us their reflections on the event. Ultimately, we'd like to be able to construct an archive of these reflection in honor of Sedley Alley and his family, and as something for people to look back on in the coming weeks and months. And then as a reminder, in the years after we've abolished the death penalty here in Tennessee, of one of the never mentioned but true costs of the death penalty.

So please, share any thoughts or reflections regarding this execution that you may have. We'll try to post them to the blog as time and space allow and create an archive on our website with pictures and people's thoughts.

Email your reflections to

May we all begin to heal and find peace.


Now More Than Ever

With yesterday's execution of Sedley Alley and near execution of Paul Dennis Reid, we recognize again the importance of companionship. Many of the men on death row are cut off from the world, and this may contribute to inmates attempting to give up their appeals. Visitors on death row provide a link to the outside world and a sense of companionship to people who are often ignored and rejected by our society. It is a wonderful and rewarding pursuit and I would encourage everyone to consider it. Read the announcement below:

On July 29, 2006 there will be a Visitor On Death Row orientation at Riverbend Maximum Security Institute from 9 a.m. til noon. This will include a trip to Death Row. The orientation is for those who are interested in possibly making a commitment to be a friend to someone with a death sentence in Tennessee. I need the names of those who wish to be a part of this orientation as quickly as possible. Unless your name is on the list to get in, you will not be allowed to stay for the orientation. Additional information will be sent closer to the time of the orientation to those who indicate an interest. Please call or send an e-mail indicating your interest to:
Michelle Baier at or 615-297-0525

Visiting on Death Row

In 1978, when Tennessee’s new, allegedly constitutional death penalty law began sending people to death row, the folks at Southern Prison Ministry decided that everyone under a death sentence needed a friend. So they started recruiting a visitor for every condemned prisoner who wanted one.

Over the years, as Tennessee’s Death Row has gradually filled up, through a variety of channels others have begun visiting individuals under a death sentence, and many faithful and rich relationships have been formed. Then in 1992, as the pace of capital sentences began to pick up across the state, the Visitor On Death Row (VODR) program began an effort to find a non-family visitor for every death sentenced prisoner who has no other regular visitor and wants a VODR friend. VODR planners also decided to make available opportunities for sharing and support among Death Row visitors in order to build community, prevent burnout, and offer an opportunity for consultation with problems.

In early 1993, VODR began doing visitor orientation sessions once or twice a year on Saturday mornings at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, including a walk to the Death Row area where visitation takes place. Since that time, the orientation team has recruited and oriented over 100 persons, mostly from area churches. Many of those persons are still visiting the Death Row prisoner with whom they were paired. Others have opted not to visit, moved out of town, been unable to "click" with their prisoner, or seen the prisoner transferred to another prison after having the death sentence changed to life.

VODR orienters, who have all visited Death Row prisoners for many years, offer individual support and consultation to newer Death Row visitors as needed and as called upon. One feature VODR orienters wish to emphasize is the support group and mentors that newer persons will need to actively engage so to stay the original course the orientation emphasizes; that of being a friend and to take the visits as a serious commitment. The leader of the VODR Support Group is Theeda Murphy. The orienters are also available to help out with questions. Names and contact information are added at the end of this article.

If there ever were an opportunity to be with the poor and marginalized, this is it. The most common characteristics of those who wind up on Death Row are likely to be these: (1) they are poor; (2) they are charged with killing a white middle- or upper-class person; (3) they had a bad lawyer who had few resources to work with; and (4) they came from an abusive home environment and stand a good chance of having permanent brain damage.

For some VODR visitors, visits to the house of the condemned are rooted in the convictions that these, too, are children of God, our own brothers and sisters, and for one of them to be killed by the state would constitute just one more crucifixion in a day when violent pseudo-solutions to the problem of violence are more the norm than the exception. However, you do not have to be of any religious persuasion to visit. As a matter of fact, the purpose of visiting is to be a friend, not to proselytize.

Our visits with prisoners do not signify that we condone murder or want convicted killers to be freed. There are long prison sentences available for murder (which are used much more often than the death sentence anyway), and many Death Row visitors also work with, and on behalf of, crime victims as well as prisoners.

To be a visitor or penpal call Michelle Baier at 615-297-0525 or

For additional information contact Susan McBride at 615-258-2672 or


death penalty blog commentaries on ...

blog diva brittney gilbert of news channel 2 in nashville has compiled a series of blog commentaries related to the execution of sedley alley and the near execution of paul reid ... it's rather fascinating sociological commentary and good reflection material for people organizing against the death penalty - check it out...

Execution Round-Up

Here are what some of the local bloggers are saying about the state's execution of Sedley Alley last night:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Paul Reid's Stay Will Hold!

TCASK Statement in Response to Upholding the Stay for Paul Reid

“Today, both the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the stay for Paul Dennis Reid put in place yesterday by Federal District Judge Todd Campbell.

Paul Reid presents a clear case of severe, long-term, diagnosed mental illness. Reid’s diagnoses, going back to the 1970s, include schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and temporal lobe dysfunction. These produce, according to the affidavit of Dr. George Woods, ‘a chronic schizophrenia-like psychosis which has severely impaired (Reid’s) ability to weigh, deliberate, inform, and cooperate.’ Reid’s delusion ‘impels, invades, and guides his daily activities as well as decision-making processes.’

To assert, as the state has done, that Paul Reid, who believes that he is being tortured by secret government “scientific technology” and who seeks his own execution to escape from this torture, is capable of making rational decisions is disingenuous and patently false. The state’s attempts to block a full evidentiary hearing on Paul Reid’s competence violate every civilized standard of justice.

According to Sita Diehl, Executive Director of NAMI Tennessee, ‘It is unethical to execute people with disabilities. Paul Dennis Reid clearly has a psychotic disorder. It would be inhumane to execute Paul Dennis Reid, because he does not understand.’ The National Alliance on Mental Illness, the American Psychological Association, the National Mental Health Association, and the National Association of Social Workers all oppose the execution of the mentally ill.

While we applaud the decision of the Sixth Circuit to allow a full competency hearing, we grieve for the families of Paul Reid’s victims. Each of these families has suffered a terrible loss and our thoughts and prayers are with them. However, TCASK believes that the execution of a man so severely mentally ill would be a gross miscarriage of justice.”

Randy Tatel, Executive Director
Alex Wiesendanger, Associate Director


Nothing to Report

Despite some hype from local news channels at the top of the hour, the only new development in the Paul Reid case is some serious whining by the Attorney General's office. The U.S. Sixth Circuit has not yet ruled on the state's motion to to vacate the stay of execution put in place by U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell when the state was unable to proceed with a full competency hearing (see today's previous post). While the Sixth Circuit is deliberating, the Attorney General has, apparently, gotten antsy. So the state has filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the stay, despite the fact that the Sixth Circuit has not ruled.

In a nutshell, nothing has changed, we are still awaiting a ruling from the Sixth Circuit on the state's motion, and we hope that the Supreme Court will not rule until the Sixth Circuit does.

The death warrant initially issued for Paul Reid is valid until 11:59 pm tonight. If no court has lifted the stay by that time, the state will be forced to go back to the Tennessee Supreme Court and ask for a new execution date to be set.


All in the News

While we wait expectantly to hear if the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals chooses justice or injustice for Paul Reid, I thought we might share a few of the stories and pictures in the news last night.

The Tennessean included a photo gallery of pictures from our vigil in Nashville.

News Channel 5 put together a nice piece right after the execution featuring TCASK's youngest board member Katherine Lea - Protestors Gather Outside Prison.

And Volunteer TV in Knoxville did a very nice piece on the Knoxville Chapters vigil featuring TCASK board member Katie Blackburn and former board member Lo Presser.

As usual, Fox 17's coverage of the execution was sensationalistic, unbalanced, and uninformative.


Justice? Who Said Anything About Justice?

As tragic and patently unfair as the state's execution of Sedley Alley was at 2:12 this morning, with the case of Paul Reid still in limbo today, the state and the Attorney General's office are trying to top their own standards of injustice.

Yesterday, Paul Reid and his attorneys were in the federal court challenging the state's contention that Paul Reid was mentally competent to end his appeals. For a little background, Paul Reid has diagnoses, going back to the 1970s, including schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and temporal lobe dysfunction. In layman's terms, he is severely mentally ill and brain damaged, living in a perpetual delusional state. With all of this evidence, including the testimony of Dr. George Woods (pg. 59 of the link), Judge Campbell, not surprisingly, ruled that Reid's attorneys had made a prima facie showing of mental illness. Consequently, the judge ruled that a full evidentiary hearing on Reid's competency was necessary. So far, all of this sounds completely reasonable, but then, the state and the A.G. spoke again.

Judge Campbell was willing to proceed with a full evidentiary hearing on the spot yesterday or even today if necessary, a course of action that would not have required a stay of execution. The defense was ready to proceed with more expert testimony and documents. But the state conceded that it was not ready for an evidentiary hearing, because it needed to have its own expert evaluate Reid. So the judge granted a stay of execution to allow the hearing to go forward when the state was prepared. The Attorney General is in the Sixth Circuit today challenging that stay!

Attorney General Paul Summers claims that the defense was dilatory in bringing this claim to the court, despite the fact the Reid's attorneys have been challenging his competency for years. The A.G. also claimed that it had had no opportunity to evaluate Reid, and therefore complained that the stay was unfair, even though the state has had Reid in its custody for the past 9 years! Does Paul Summers expect anyone to believe that the state didn't know that Paul Reid's competency was in question, after thousands of pages of legal filings on the issue? And to then claim that, even though it was his office that was unprepared to have an evidentiary hearing and therefore provoked the stay, the defense was dilatory and that the stay should not have been granted smacks of the most callous disregard for life and for justice imaginable.

Our thoughts and prayers today are with the families of Angela Holmes, Michelle Mace and all of Paul Reid's victims today. The loss of their loved ones was an absolute tragedy. But our thoughts are also with Linda Martiniano, Paul Reid's sister, who may also become the survivor of a homicide victim. The 6th Circuit will rule today on the state's motion to vacate the stay. If justice prevails, they will vote to uphold the stay and hold the evidentiary hearing that the state is so afraid of.



Very early this morning, the state of Tennessee killed Sedley Alley. Roughly an hour before the scheduled execution, a stay was issued by Judge Gil Merritt of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court. As 1:00 approached the stay was still in place and people began to drift away from the vigil at Riverbend Prison, exhausted and drained from the ordeal. No one, not the media, not the warden, not the abolitionists seemed to know what was happening. All anyone knew was that a stay was in place and that the state was challenging it.

But shortly after 1:00, the news came. The stay had been overturned and Sedley Alley would be executed shortly thereafter. It was a little after 2:00 when the word came to the forty vigilers gathered in a circle of candle light. Sedley Alley was dead.

In the end, it did not matter that there was serious doubt as to whether Sedley Alley was even guilty of Suzanne Collins' murder. In the end it did not matter that the state possessed DNA evidence that could have conclusively demonstrated guilt or innocence. No, in the end all that mattered was that vengeance was called for.

Doing innumerable interviews after the execution shattered our circle and our hopes, I repeated the same message to reporters:

"When a person is executed, the official cause of death is homicide. The murder of Suzanne Marie Collins was a tragedy and our hearts go out to the members of her family, who must now live as the survivors of a homicide victim. But let us not forget that the state of Tennessee has now made Sedley Alley's innocent children, April and David, the survivors of a homicide victim as well."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


TCASK Statement in Response to the Stay for Paul Reid

After the Tennessee state courts slammed the door on a clear case of serious mental illness, Federal District Court Judge Todd Campbell has called for a full competency hearing. Paul Dennis Reid’s mental health diagnoses, dating back to the 1970s, include schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and temporal lobe dysfunction. We are relieved that the state will not execute a man with long diagnosed brain damage and mental illness without a full inquiry into his mental competency.

The near execution of Paul Reid calls attention to Tennessee’s continuing practice of sentencing the mentally ill to death. Across the nation, one quarter of death row inmates suffer from severe, diagnosed mental illness, while more than 80% suffer from some mental impairment. Executing the mentally ill, who have diminished capacity for assisting in their defense, understanding their situations, and comprehending the consequences of their actions, is an abdication of justice. The execution of the mentally ill is opposed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

While we are pleased that the courts have upheld justice for people with severe mental illness like Paul Reid, we continue to grieve for the pain and loss experienced by the families of his victims. We regret that the capital punishment system continues to re-traumatize the family members of murder victims during the emotional roller coaster of the capital appeals process. For the sake of victims’ families, as well as justice and fairness, we continue to call for a halt to all executions.


Bad News in Paul Reid's Case

Paul Reid's request for a stay of execution was denied by the state court of criminal appeals today. Even worse, the Governor has just refused Reid's request for clemency. In denying clemency, Governor Phil Bredesen hid behind the argument that the courts have been examining the issue of Reid's mental competency. Despite his assertion that politics does not play a role in his decision, the Governor decided to give himself political cover by passing the buck to the court system instead of taking a principled stand. Since 1993, Governors of Missouri, Virginia, Georgia, Nevada, Louisiana, and Indiana have granted clemency due to concerns about the inmate's mental competency. Apparently Bredesen, who said "I do not believe that intervention by my office through the use of the Governor's clemency power is appropriate," is unaware of this.

You can read the Governors (curt) denial here.


These Problems are Real and Widespread

Sedley Alley, scheduled to die in Tennessee's double execution tonight, has challenges before several courts today. These challenges generally focus on two basic arguments, that the state should allow DNA testing to ascertain if Alley is truly guilty and a challenge to the state's lethal injection procedure.

Of course the state scoffs at these challenges. Alley confessed to the murder, they say, and his lethal injection arguments are based on nothing but an attempt to delay his execution. But these are real issues.

Yesterday, four inmates who have been exonerated by the exact same type of DNA testing that Alley is requesting asked permission to file an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court. Moreover, Alley's confession is extremely questionable, since the facts that he confessed to do not match the facts of the crime. And false confessions do happen frequently, particularly when, as in Alley's case, interrogations are not fully or properly taped. Yesterday's L.A. Times ran an in depth article of true stories of false confessions. Read the piece here.

In Missouri, a judge has put a halt to all executions in that state due to concerns about painful lethal injection procedures. Read the full story here.

Clearly, the issues that Sedley Alley is raising are of concern across the country. We should, obviously, be concerned with the possibility of executing an innocent person, and we should be concerned that the method by which we do so might be tantamount to torture. Hopefully Tennessee will do the right thing as we move through the day.


A Clear and Moving Voice

Today the Tennessean carried an op-ed piece by Charlie Strobel. Charlie was previously the pastor of holy Name Catholic Church (where our current offices are located) and then founded and continues to direct the Campus for Human Development. Charlie also has faced the tragedy of having his mother murdered.

Charlie's letter is a beautiful and cogent reminder that revenge is not the answer, and that many families who have lost a loved one to murder do not want to see another murder in response. As I sat in mass this morning, in the very church where Charlie used to preach, the Gospel reading was from the book of Matthew; it included the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This great moral message, which can be found, in some form across all faiths and people of conscience is particularly timely as we face today's double execution. It does not read do unto others as they have done to you, which seems to be the rhetoric of those who support the death penalty. Instead it calls us to forgive and to heal. Charlie's beautiful words, backed by his personal story and integrity, bring this home to us now. We can only hope that the state of Tennessee can be moved by the same message.

To read Charlie's piece, click here.


Reid Requests Clemency

Attorneys for Paul Reid have requested clemency from the Governor. There is a lengthy precedent of Governors granting clemency for those suffering from severe mental illness, and there is certainly no question that Reid falls into that category.

Paul Reid has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and temporal lobe dysfunction resulting from grievous childhood abuse. He has lived in a persistently delusional state for the last 30 years, in which he believes that he is the target of a vast conspiracy by the "military government" which controls everyone he has been in contact with and experiments on him "like a rat" to deny him success and force him to commit crimes. He believes that he has been selected to breed with a millionaire's wife and that, were it not for the interference of the military government, he would be a wealthy lawyer at a big law firm in Houston. He even believes that he is being tortured by "scientific technology" and that the only way to escape this torture is to allow himself to be executed.

There can be no question that Paul Reid is severely mentally ill. In the U.S., we claim that we don't execute the insane, and yet Paul Reid sits on death watch, only 15 hours from execution.

Please immediately call Governor Bredesen at (615) 741-2001 or email him at Tell the Governor that executing a man as obviously mentally ill as Paul Reid is immoral and ask him to grant Paul Reid's request for clemency.

Monday, June 26, 2006


prayin' for some o' that ol' tennessee magic...

it's 6:03 pm and alex has drifted out - we've both been working steadily and been very productive today ... and the energy is still waxing...

still, you can feel it shrouding over the office just a little bit - even john coltrane, hard as he's trying, can't keep it from drifting in like an early morning fog ... that thing called death

we don't talk much about the outcome of what the state has planned for tomorrow night - the premeditated homicide of two individuals ... it's heavy and begins to bear down like a an old-fashioned 200, lb. barbell weight ... this thing called by other names but is in fact revenge killing ...

so i sit here praying for what a dear friend of mine refers to as, "that tennessee magic," ...

you see we've had more than 20 execution dates scheduled since robert coe was killed by us good people here in the state of tennessee on 4/19/00 and each and every one of them have been stayed...

...thanks to the nose-to-the-grindstone, creative, talented, dedicated lawyers who work capital defense cases at the state post-conviction, the federal public defender, and some private law offices across the state ...

so you see, it's their work and not "magic" that has stopped all of those executions ... so in the prayers that you unleash upon the universe in the next 24 hours make sure to include all those lawyers, their families, their friends, and all who sustain them ... and ask for them to have very good days tomorrow - for all our sakes...

peace out - <3


TN Supreme Court: "We Don't Care if You're Crazy"

The Tennessee Supreme Court has just ruled today in the case of Paul Dennis Reid. The court rejected the claims of Reid's attorneys that an inmate should be able to rationally consult with his attorneys. Apparently, the four justices who joined in the opinion, feel that it is perfectly alright to deny a next friend to someone who cannot rationally consult with his attorneys, or who, in the case of Paul Reid, cannot even remember past events properly due to his severe mental illness!

You can read the court's opinion here, but sit down first; it's a little shocking.

As usual, Supreme Court Justice Adolpho Birch dissented from the majority opinion with a reasoned and principled position. Justice Birch makes a number of clear and insightful points, one of which is that applying a standard of mental competency that is utilized for civil litigation is completely inappropriate when talking about literal life and death decisions. Birch makes a further excellent point in his dissent regarding the rules of pursuing state appeals. Since petitioners only get to go through the process once, to allow them to proceed with some claims while not others which require a competent petitioner to pursue (as the majority opinion suggests) would effectively close the door to reasonable claims! Apparently, this, like so many other calls for justice, went unheeded by the majority.


Statewide Prayer Services and Vigils ScheduleTuesday Evening June 27th

this is posted on the home page of our web site as well... please join in community anywhere you can... peace out - <3

Statewide Prayer Services and Vigils ScheduleTuesday Evening June 27th

The state of Tennessee is scheduled to carry out the dual executions of Sedley Alley and Paul Dennis Reid this Wednesday, June 28th, beginning at ~1:00 a.m.

Alley's request to release post-conviction physical evidence for DNA testing is currently before the TN Supreme Court while his challenge to the lethal injection protocol of Tennessee is seeking an en banc hearing of 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Reid's case in which his sister Linda Martiniano seeks next friend status because Reid was and remains incompetent to drop his appeals is before the TN Supreme Court and moves onto the Federal courts next. Both cases are likely to come down to the wire next Tuesday evening.

TCASK asks you to gather in community to oppose these two acts of state violence and urges you to attend a prayer service or vigil of witness in your area next Tuesday evening, June 27th.

Vigil Locations and Times

A vigil procession will begin at 8:00 in the evening of June 27th at Forrest Avenue United Methodist Church, 120 Forrest. The procession will traverse a portion of the bridge where we will light candles (one for Paul Reid, one for Sedley Alley, one for murder victims, and one for the innocent still on death row.) There will be a moment of silence and we will go back to the church. Call 423-877-0999 or 615-256-3906 for more information.

An ecumenical service will begin at 8:00 in the evening of June 27th at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 421 North Washington in Cookeville. Father Don Loskot and Rev. Pat Handlson will lead the service with assistance from Hector Black. Those gathered will then process 4 blocks to the Courthouse Square and continue the vigil until 10:00 p.m. Call 931-268-9889 or 615-256-3906 for more information.

An interfaith service will be held from 9 - 10 p.m. the evening of June 27th at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 2931 Kingston Pike in Knoxville. Those of you who would like to meet this double act of violence by the state with prayer, in community, are asked to join us between 9 and 10 pm. Those who wish to attend an interactive vigil, from 8-9 p.m. and/or from 10 pm - 2 am, will be embraced and have the opportunity to share your thoughts and/or feelings.

Again, you can come and oppose these acts of state violence, in community, any time between 8 pm Tuesday evening June 27th and 2 am Wednesday morning June 28th. For more information call 865-454-2479 or 615-256-3906 for more information.

Sunday, June 25, 7:00 p.m. Beginning of fast and vigil at Immaculate Conception. Central and Belvedere. We will maintain a continuous presence until the execution(s) unless stays are granted. Tuesday, June 26th, 8:00 p.m. If the executions are still scheduled, we will hold a service on the steps of IC. For more information call 615-256-3906.

An interfaith service will be held at 7:30 the evening of June 27th at Holy Name Catholic Church, 521 Woodland Street in East Nashville. Those of you who would like to meet this double act of violence by the state with prayer, in community, are asked to join us. Those who wish to attend the vigil afterward, and we hope that you will, can carpool together from Holy Name.
A visible vigil will begin at 10 p.m. at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison located at 7475 Cockrell Bend in West Nashville. You may begin arriving on-site at 9 p.m. TCASK will maintain its vigil until either the state stands down or carries out one or both executions.

Rules for Nashville Vigil at Riverbend:

TCASK as an organization expects any individuals or groups of individuals attending a vigil to conduct themselves in accordance with the general principles of non-violence.

Do BRING a camping (folding) chair to sit in and make yourself comfortable.

Do NOT bring anything that could be construed as a weapon ANYWHERE on your person or in your car.

Do NOT bring any non-prescription drugs or alcohol in your vehicle.

The utmost respect for the victim’s family in both conduct and statements should be shown.

Employees of Riverbend Maximum Security Institute (RMSI) are not to be the target of any negative statements. Anyone making personal statements against a guard or other RMSI employee will be asked to leave the premises.

Expect at Riverbend Prison Vigil Site:

For your vehicle and person to be searched by Highway Patrolpersons and/or RMSI guards.

For there to be drug-sniffing dogs used to search your vehicle.

For helicopters to be part of the security regimen.

For TCASK to have trained peacekeepers on site to help manage the emotions of the evening.

Therefore, expect to be in a safe space both physically and emotionally.

For pro-execution people to be at the prison but kept apart from our service and vigil.

For cities not listed call the TCASK office at 615-473-2950.


We're That Close

The state can handle multiple executions, according to TDOC spokeswoman Dorinda Carter, because Death Watch has four cells. I mean, really, why stop at two?

Yesterday, sadly, both Paul Dennis Reid and Sedley Alley were moved to the death watch cells, only steps away from Tennessee's execution chamber. The chamber has gone unused since 2000, but, as things stand today, it will receive two inmates late tomorrow night. On death watch, the inmates are stripped of all their possessions, their books, bibles, pictures they may have of loved ones, keepsakes. Everything. And they are left in a tiny cell where they are under constant observation to ensure that, as they face their deaths, they don't commit suicide and take the honor away from the state. So they face death under the stares of guards recording their activities every fifteen minutes, without any of their personal effects, in a cold clinical cell, not even their own.

Sedley Alley and Paul Reid will sit in these cells until 1:00 Wednesday morning, when they will be executed. Well, one of them will be, the other may have to wait a few more hours for the prison staff to clear away the first body, and move the old witnesses out and the new ones in. Cold and methodical? You bet. Is the cause of death still homicide? Absolutely.

But the people of Tennessee are not standing silently by. In Memphis, a vigil and fast has already begun at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which will go on until the executions or stays occur. Across the state in Cookeville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and of course here in Nashville, there will be vigils and prayer services to oppose this double homicide. For a full listing of Tennessee events, click here.

Tennessee has executed only one person in over 16,000 days. Tomorrow we will attempt to execute two in one night. But if such a gross injustice is to occur, we will not be silent in the face of murder. Even Paul Reid and Sedley Alley, isolated on death watch, will hear us.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


the risk of executing the innocent is too high...

last statement: "i want to say i hold no grudges. i hate no one. i love my family. tell everyone on death row to keep the faith and don't give up."

offender: carlos deluna #744

date of execution: december 7, 1989

desperate supporters of capital punishment say it can not and has not happened - the execution of an innocent person...

hogwash - even conservatives acknowledge that the state can't fairly and accurately run a system of killing ... fallible people create fallible systems ... even former us supreme court justice sandra day o'connor believes that innocent person have been executed...

like who??? how about carlos deluna for one (ruben cantu for another)...

like paul house if he is not exonerated and freed from the tennessee maximum security prison system that has caged this wrongfully convicted human being for more than 20 years...

the chicago tribune is breaking the deluna story in a 3-part investigative piece...tcask will be featuring this story over the next week and linking it to the failures of tennessee's broken death penalty system...stay tuned... here's a brief associated press overview of the case...

CHICAGO - A newspaper investigation raises questions about the execution of a man for a 1983 slaying at a Corpus Christi service station.

Carlos De Luna was executed 16 years ago for the fatal stabbing of Wanda Lopez, a gas station clerk and a single mother.

De Luna was swiftly convicted and sentenced to death even though the parolee proclaimed he was innocent. He identified another man as the killer.

The Chicago Tribune, in the first of a three-part series published Sunday, said it has uncovered evidence strongly suggesting that De Luna's acquaintance, Carlos Hernandez, was the one who killed Lopez. Hernandez died in 1999.

Hernandez's friends and relatives, ending years of silence, said the felon bragged that De Luna went to Death Row for a murder he committed.

The case was compromised by shaky eyewitness investigation, sloppy police work and a failure to thoroughly pursue Hernandez as a possible suspect, the newspaper reported.

De Luna's prosecutors maintain the right man was convicted, though the lead prosecutor acknowledged being troubled by some of the new information. A former police detective said he now thinks the wrong man was executed.

No DNA or other conclusive proof of De Luna's guilt or innocence is available. The store did not have a security camera.

The newspaper learned of the De Luna case from a Columbia University law professor who had begun to look into evidence pointing to Hernandez.

De Luna was executed by lethal injection in 1989.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


see - YOU can make a world of difference...

i just gotta tell you that lyn wahnseidler is one cool woman...flat out, no lie...

on wednesday we sent out an alert to a select group of faith-linked individuals that had a ready-to-use bulletin announcement regarding next tuesday evening's interfaith prayer service and vigil in nashville ... these are opportunities created for people in the greater nashville area to oppose, in community, the planned executions of paul dennis reid and sedley alley early next wednesday morning, june 28th...

we asked this group of people to get this announcement to any faith communities (churches, synagogues, mosques, etc...) and ask them to publish it or announce during services or prayer gatherings between now and next tuesday evening...

lyn went one better... she got people to also write letters to governor's what her e-mail reply said, "35 letters have been sent to Gov. Bredesen asking him to issue a temporary reprieve to order: DNA testing in Sedley Alley's case; and a full competency hearing for Paul Reid. The letters were signed at the Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Church and at an Americans United for the Separation of Church and State board meeting, and wherever. The letter contained a lot of the information that was in your sample letter to editors..."

now lyn is very humble and is my mother's age ... and wouldn't really care about being blogged about ... but i had to share with you what one person can do if they decide to do it...

so ask yourself, "how can i be like lyn?" ... and just do it!

peace out - <3


TAKE ACTION: Stop Tennessee from Taking Step Backwards

Paul Reid, who has given up his right to appeals, and has a history of mental illness, is scheduled to be executed in Tennessee on June 28.

This would be only the second execution in the state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. Mental health professionals testified that Paul Reid suffered from serious mental illness, including chronic schizophrenia, had brain damage, and suffered a number of serious head injuries as a result of childhood abuse and accidents.

CLICK HERE to take action through Amnesty International USA's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty...

Friday, June 23, 2006


view democracy now! death penalty segment here...

if you click here you can view today's hour long democracy now! television segment ... if you scroll to the 29 minute mark this is where the death penalty segment on tennessee begins ... a rush transcript is available as well ... it is followed by an update on the case of mumia abu-jamal...


the metro pulse chimes in with reasonable voice

editor leslie wylie of knoxville's metro pulse added some depth to the generally superficial media coverage of tennessee's pending dual-execution evening scheduled next wednesday morning, the 28th, at ~1 a.m....

of particular note is her smooth transition from the tcask position on wasted taxpayer dollars poured vacuously into a broken death penalty system into comments from murder victim's families for reconciliation executive director robert hoelscher as to how those $$$ are diverted away from victim's services...

very nice, professional work leslie!!!

click here to read the metro pulse article on-line...

peace out - <3

Thursday, June 22, 2006


no innocent person can gain access to dna evidence...

well, that's the case if you pay attention to the tennessee criminal court of appeals (cca) any way...

the cca just posted their decision denying sedley alley's request to compel the release of physical evidence for dna analysis - they affirmed the decision of criminal court judge otis higgs, jr....

so what message did the cca send out with this decision???

no innocent person can gain access to DNA evidence...

the court of criminal appeals fundamentally misunderstands the law and the power of dna technology that is used in this country every day to solve crimes, exonerate innocent people and bring guilty people to justice...

the state legislature passed the post-conviction dna act to prevent the incarceration and execution of innocent people...

the united states supreme court (scotus) has spoken recently about the power of dna to exonerate the wrongfully convicted... this decision appears to ignore both the intent of the legislature and the lesson of the supreme court in the house case...

now it's on to the tennessee supreme court and then scotus if necessary...

predictions that sedley alley's appeals would go down to the wire appear prescient ... keep his daughter april and son david in your prayers ...

peace out... <3


democracy now! is a tv show...

who knew???

mike burke from democracy now! in new york called today and asked us to be on amy goodman's syndicated tv show in the morning ... woot!

early too - the show broadcasts from 7-8 am ... gotta be there at 6:30 ... this will get tcask into chattanooga and johnson city as well as radio free nashville and all kinds of dish tv channels ... again - woot!


cruel and unusual - you decide...

"no, jesus," she screamed and began beating on the window. "god, he felt that. they killed my baby..."

these were the agonized words of brenda reese as her son lamont gasped his final breath ...

“please jesus,” she cried and pleaded. “don’t do it. oh, god, jesus, please don’t,”...

lamont was one of more than 300 people executed in texas since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the mid 70' of more than 1000 executed throughout the united states - over 80% of them in former confederate states...

family members surrounded reese in the witness room at the huntsville "walls" unit, trying to comfort her in the moments after her son's death. "oh god, jesus," she began to chant. "oh god, jesus. my baby's gone,"...

one of the core issues that emerges in discussions of the death penalty is, "what about the victims?"... we at tcask are deeply concerned about victims - all victims - without hierarchy or judgement ...

can we deny that brenda reese and her family members are victims ... if we kill their loved one do they not suffer, do they not hurt, do they not grieve???

our communal response to homicide, to murder, should include addressing the needs of murder victims family members - what it should not do is create a new set of victims whose pain, suffering, and needs we then ignore...

peace out - <3

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


as tennessee officials take a step backwards...

elected officials elsewhere take a compassionate and rational step forward...

even while our state pursued plans for a double execution later in the month, the philippines congress abolished the death penalty on june 6th, repealing the 1993 legislation that reintroduced lethal injection..more than 1,000 prisoners on death row will now be spared execution with their sentences commuted to life imprisonment without parole...

the lil' jesuit dude, myself, and kate (our summer intern) give president arroyo and the philippine congress a huge standing O...

president gloria macapagal-arroyo said in a statement posted on her website: "we celebrate the victory of life as i thank congress for its immediate action in abolishing the death penalty law... but make no mistake about it, the abolition of the death penalty will be complemented by a stricter and sterner enforcement of the law in all fronts ... this is not a victory for criminals as some would claim, but rather, clear proof that filipinos respect and value the sanctity of human life and uphold the virtue and religious doctrines that are expected of us as a dominant christian nation," .... she also said the government would improve the country's jail facilities to create an environment that is more conducive to prisoners' rehabilitation and reformation...

mrs arroyo wrote to senate president franklin drilon calling for the urgent passage of the abolition bills before the adjournment of congress this a letter sent to senate sresident franklin m. drilon, the president pointed to the urgent need for "abolishing death penalty as its imposition was shown to have not served its principal purpose of effectively deterring the commission of heinous crimes"...

she also said abolition would "remedy the findings that death penalty is anti-poor as the underprivileged who cannot afford the services of competent counsels are oftentimes the ones convicted of death penalty"...

rock and roll president arroyo!!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006



Tonight on Channel 50's show "Open Line" I'll be on along with Verna Wyatt of You Have the Power discussing the recent Supreme Court decisions in the case of Paul House and on lethal injection as well as Tennessee's scheduled mass execution on June 28th. The show will run from 7:00 to 8:00 and you can call in to (615) 737-7587. Tune in if you can. It's a rare opportunity to see me in a tie!


We Have Moved!!!!

Yes, that's right! TCASK has finally settled into our new office in Holy Name Catholic Church and boy are we excited! We have a new phone number (615-256-3906) and a separate fax line. But the best part is certainly that we have a large open space in which to work that encourages communication and collaboration amongst the staff in the office. Being able to easily talk and share ideas (which we couldn't do in our last office - two separate offices) while not being cramped together (as we were in the office before that) is really a much nicer way to work. And, of course, Randy really gets to complain about my predilection for the Indigo Girls now.

And, as pictured above, we have a nice round conference table where we can eat meals and have our bi-weekly staff meetings comfortably. We're even able to add another table and have small group meetings in our office now. We never could have done that before. And indeed the new office sports five work stations, a must as we begin to expand our staff, including our summer intern Kate Adcock (pictured above at the file cabinet).

So our apologies for being out of touch for a few days, I have personally spent more time on hold with BellSouth than I ever wanted to, but I hope that everyone feels that it was worth it, because we certainly do. Our new office is much better suited to help us git 'er done!

Monday, June 19, 2006


and a little on sedley alley too...

...and this is from an associated press story this afternoon...

"The state Court of Criminal Appeals was asked Monday to allow DNA testing on evidence from the scene of the murder that death row inmate Sedley Alley was convicted of committing in 1985. Barry Scheck, co-founder of the nonprofit legal clinic called the Innocence Project, asked a three-judge panel of the appeals court in Jackson to overturn a Memphis judge's ruling that blocks the testing. Scheck said that state lawyers who have argued that Alley was properly convicted of murdering a 19-year-old woman in Shelby County have no way of knowing what such tests will find."


short paul reid update...

new motions were filed after judge gasaway ruled that reid did not qualify for a mental competency hearing...this is from the tennessean on saturday...

"Two motions to stay convicted killer Paul Dennis Reid's June 28 execution have been filed by Reid's attorneys, at the request of his sister Linda Martiniano. In one motion, Reid's defenders contend he suffers from a neurological disorder that has left him with a "chronic, schizophrenia-like psychosis. "The second motion claims "Reid has persistent delusions about government controlling his life and the legal process."

Friday, June 16, 2006


The Scene Speaks Out!

OK, I know I just posted, but this is too good. The Nashville Scene has come out again on the side of truth and justice with a great article about Paul House in this week's edition. Last year, the Scene did a terrific investigative piece on the House case and really tore the state's exceedingly flimsy case to shreds. This piece is a quick follow up after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in House's favor earlier this week.

Read the piece here and do enjoy:


Graduation Day!

No, I'm not talking about graduation from any particular institution of learning, although congratulations to everyone who has graduated in the past months. Instead I'm talking about the maturation and development of student leaders right here in the Tennessee abolition movement.

A few days ago I sat down with the working group on the TCASK Student Caucus, and we focused particularly on the Tennessee Student Conference Against the Death Penalty, which will be held at MTSU on Saturday September 9th. I've come to expect a fairly high level of work from these students, but they blew me away again. In about an hour and a half at Bongo Java we came up with the full structure of the conference as well as the general outline for the caucus as a whole. The students even began planning the workshops that they will give - and I've gotta tell ya, these workshops sound terrific!

To begin with, these are accomplished students who have a lot of experience and skills to offer in the areas of campus organizing, fundraising, event planning, the moratorium campaign, and organizing in high schools. These students have already successfully formed TCASK chapters on their campuses, raised sometimes thousands of dollars, brought Juan Melendez, Bud Welch, and many other incredible speakers to Tennessee, and brought groups of students to TCASK lobby day and literally wowed legislators. I can learn from them, and, on September 9th, we'll all have the opportunity to do so!

On another exciting note, we've finally received our budget for the Student conference, and we now can guarantee that we'll be able to afford to bring an exciting keynote speaker, like Juan Melendez or Ray Crone, as well as anti-death penalty experts from Equal Justice USA and hopefully a Tennessee State Legislator as well!

So if you're a high school of college student in Tennessee, mark your calendars for September 9th! And give Alex or Kate in the TCASK office a call to learn how you can become more involved in the TCASK Student Caucus. Students are preparing to become a more centralized and solidified force in the abolition movement. It's graduation day!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


settling into a new home...again...

it's willie nelson who memorialized the song on the road again but it's the tennessee coalition to abolish state killing that walks the walk - in two different ways...

the most common reference is, of course, to our grassroots outreach strategy... the lil' jesuit dude and myself travel the highways and byways of tennessee to meet people who want to learn about the death penalty and ultimately empower them to organize against capital punishment in their own communities - in a way that supports our long-term strategic plan to end executions in this state...

but the second reference is to our 3rd office move in ~16 months ... this weekend we are moving into an expansive office space in the parish center of holy name church in east nashville...a church where our good friend charlie strobel was seated as pastor back in 1977...

we moved into an office in the nations, a west nashville neighborhood, february 2005...we moved next door into a space with nashville's truth and reconciliation project (tarp) in february of this year ... and we are packing to move even as this is being composed...

we are thankful to sean siple, founder of tarp, for accommodating our needs over the past 16 months and we feel blessed that the parish council of holy name has welcomed tcask with open arms...we are looking forward to getting settled in and to have you stop by and volunteer your services...

we may be out of sorts for a few days so read some backlogs from one of the best blogs in tennessee and we'll be back after we unpack at 508 main street...

peace out - <3


Who Are We Doing This For?

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer carried the following op-ed piece, written by Lorry Post. As Tennessee moves at break neck speed toward executing two men in a single night (June 28th), as we think about Paul House still sitting on death row after 21 years (although with a new sense of hope), I think we should take some time to reflect on the true effects of capital punishment. So read, reflect, pray, and think about the following statement:

Death Penalty is Unfair -
To Victims' Families

By Lorry Post

My wife, June, and I are among family members of murder victims who believe life in prison without parole is more just than the death penalty.

Those of us who have endured a loved one's murder need support and justice. We don't want excuses when the system doesn't deliver, and we certainly don't want to be used to promote someone else's agenda.

Unfortunately, we often are. But some answers may soon be on the horizon.

A legislatively mandated commission to study the death penalty in New Jersey embarked on its work last week.

The commission is looking at whether the death penalty is worth maintaining in the face of mounting concerns about the risk of executing the innocent.

I hope the commission will ask a key question: How can our criminal justice system best accomplish the ends of public safety, punishment, and the needs of victims?

My wife and I know firsthand the tragedy of losing a family member to a killer.
In 1988, my daughter, Lisa, was stabbed to death by her husband in Georgia. Her slaying took her away not only from my wife and me, but tragically from my granddaughter, who has grown up without her mother and with her father in prison.

Living through this ordeal - Lisa's death, the trial, and life without my daughter - has driven home the harsh realities of our criminal justice system.

More than anything, victims' families need emotional, and sometimes financial, support from their community.

In New Jersey there are systems in place, but, as often is the case, funding is limited.
The death penalty, meanwhile, has cost the state a quarter of a billion dollars more than life without parole would have cost since 1982, according to a 2005 study by New Jersey Policy Perspective.

This has diverted funds from victims' services and from critical areas of law enforcement.
Some say victims' families want "closure." There is no closure when someone you love is murdered. But there should be justice and certainty - certainty that the right person has been convicted and sent to prison and certainty that when the trial is over, it's really over.

The death penalty accomplishes neither of these goals.

As we have learned in recent years, the wrong person too often is sentenced to death, and according to surveys most Americans believe innocent people have been executed.

What's worse is that the death penalty prolongs the tragedy for victims' families, with seemingly endless appeals and high-profile legal proceedings.

It can be decades before a killer is executed, and when that occurs, the lawyers, the politicians and especially reporters painfully rehash the entire case. The victims are forced to live through the ordeal once again.

Some suggest expediting the process to make it more amenable to the concerns of victims' families and to save the state's resources. But the Catch-22 inherent in the death penalty is that if we speed up the process, we increase the risk of executing the innocent.

Cutting costs and time would mean cutting corners in the investigation and trial phase or accelerating the inmate's appeals. Both are sure-fire ways to ensure that even more mistakes are made.

The death penalty is about exorbitant costs, unacceptable risks, fatal flaws and gross inequities. Excuses for keeping this broken system are running out.

Lorry Post is the founder and former executive director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Who's Crazy Now?

Yesterday, Circuit Court Judge John Gasaway rejected the request, by Paul Reid's sister, Linda Martiano, to be named as her brother's next friend. While Gasaway conceded that Ms. Martiano had the necessary relationship with Reid to be named next friend, he claimed that the petitioners had not made a prima facie showing of mental incompetence.

Now, I'll be the first person to tell you that I am not a lawyer, and I don't understand all the intricacies of the law (I still get nervous when I have to pronounce "prima facie" to be completely honest), but I've read the judge's opinion as well as the affidavits submitted on Reid's behalf. Particularly, I'd call attention to the affidavit of George W. Woods, M.D., a neuropsychiatrist. Dr. Woods is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a board member of the Executive Committee of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, and on the advisory board of the Health Law Institute at DePaul University. In other words, this guy knows his stuff.

In Dr. Woods' affidavit, he states uncategorically, that "Mr. Reid is presently incompetent under the analysis required by and of those standards." He explains that Reid suffers from paranoid delusions (the "military government" is controlling all the people around him, manipulating his behavior, and torturing him with "scientific technology")which make him incapable of making rational decisions. Reid believes that his current counsel are members of the military government conspiracy. Additionally, Woods explains, Reid experiences memory problems, "repeats" of odd deja vu moments.

Now this is a sworn statement from a medical professional in the highest standing in his field. Dr. Woods' states, more than five times, that Reid is incompetent. So how did Judge Gasaway respond?

With a complete rejection! Apparently, even though Dr. Woods repeatedly describes Reid's symptoms and problems, he does not specifically refer to Reid being asked about his legal options and therefore does not prove that Reid is incompetent of understanding his current legal situation! So, even though the guy believes that his lawyers are part of a vast governmental conspiracy against him, even though he thinks that execution is the only way to escape from the torture of the military technology, even though he has problems remembering, and even though he has persistent delusions which he holds to unshakeably, he might still be able to make rational decisions about his legal case according to Gasaway!

The fact that the state is still proceeding in its attempt to execute Paul Reid on June 28th is a tragedy. But the fact that our legal systems can even make the claim that this man is mentally competent to make any decision is a farce. It simply demonstrates how out of undeveloped our legislative understanding of mental illness is in comparison to our scientific understanding. It is past time that we, as a society, recognize this serious error and stop the legal killing of the mentally ill!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006



It's almost the close of the day, the time when the hard working people of Nashville finish their work days and head home. They sit down to dinner with their families watch the evening news and sleep the peaceful sleep of the righteous, waking up the next morning to get back to their busy lives. Now, it's a rare occasion indeed when we at TCASK leave the office by 5:00 or even 6:00, but we do still like to have a good night's sleep, which is why I'm a little upset at the City Paper, because there will be no sleep for me tonight. Not with the horror stories they print scaring me out of my socks!

No! It's not a story about the rising crime rate (although that's certainly not a good sign) or even about Barry Bonds. no, the story that caught my eye this morning, causing me to shriek with horror right there on the number 10 bus, was the news that current Attorney General Paul Summers is considering applying for a seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court! Read the entire story here:

Now the Supreme Court hears all the appeals of inmates on death row and sets execution dates - they've currently sentenced Paul Dennis Reid and Sedley Alley to be executed on the same night. Whatever else Paul Summers has done as AG, he has been an abolitionist's nightmare. In 2000, he asked the Supreme Court to place a conservator on Gregory Thompson to medicate him since Thompson was "incapable of making rational decisions." Then in 2004, while still admitting that Thompson was severely mentally ill, Summers asked that the conservator be removed so he could seek an execution date. He just wanted Thompson medicated to make him sane enough to kill. When Sedley Alley's execution was stayed a few weeks ago to allow for the courts to settle the question of DNA testing, Summers responded by requesting a date of June 1st (the first day after the 15 day reprieve) be set, even though this would never allow the ajudication and testing to take place.

There are more stories I could tell, but I think that what is clear is that, if selected to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Paul Summers would be extremely harsh to the men and women sentenced to death. It is unlikely that he would be willing to hear legitimate complaints or examine serious issues of innocence. Would Paul Summers care that DNA testing could prove the innocence of Sedley Alley? Would he allow a new hearing for Paul Gregory House? Would he care that Erskine Johnson (a black man) was sentenced to death by an all white jury in Shelby County which is 42% African-American?

The answer gives me nightmares.

Monday, June 12, 2006


tcask statement on house and more...

the u.s. supreme court ruling in the house case is here and a washington post article on the case is here ... below is the tcask press release just being issued (and will be posted on the tcask web site tonight) ...

Paul House Innocent Supreme Court Ruling Asserts
No Reasonable Juror Could Convict House Viewing All Evidence

Nashville: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the innocence claims of Paul Gregory House were strong enough to have his case remanded back to Eastern District Federal Judge Jarvis. By a 5-3 vote the court ruled that “no reasonable juror viewing the record as a whole would lack reasonable doubt.”

“Innocence matters – that what the U.S. Supreme Court asserted today,” said Randy Tatel. “The court has rejected the view that if evidence of your innocence is found after you've been convicted, you have no right to have that evidence brought to the attention of a court.”

That view has been fateful for Paul House and his mother Joyce. Apparently, prosecutor Paul Philips who put Paul House on Tennessee’s death row more than 20 years ago would rather execute an innocent person than to see justice finally done. Philips prosecuted House for the murder of Carolyn Muncey in Union County in 1985. The motive given by Philips for the murder was to cover up the rape of the victim.

In overturning the 6th Circuit ruling the U.S. Supreme Court considered that DNA evidence has now proven that Paul Gregory House did not rape Carolyn Muncey before she was murdered in Union County in 1985. In addition, two witnesses say the victim’s husband, Hubert “Little Hube” Muncey, confessed to killing his wife accidentally after he had been out at the local community center, drinking and dancing. The jury never heard that testimony.

“The court ruled that no reasonable jury would have convicted House,” said Tatel. “That is, Paul House is not guilty.”

House’s case made national news last October when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 8-7 that the new evidence warranted neither a new trial nor House’s immediate release. The dissenting opinion in House’s 6th Circuit ruling noted that, “This case and the few empirical studies that we have reinforce Justice (Sandra Day) O'Connor's view that the system is allowing some innocent defendants to be executed.”

The 6th Circuit’s dissenting opinion asserted that, “Once the initial trial and appeal have occurred, the State, and its officials who have prosecuted, sentenced, and reviewed the case, is inclined to believe that the State was right all along. They tend to close ranks and resist admission of error.”

The system is designed to insure fairness of procedure. It is not concerned with fairness in the outcome even if, as Justice Antonin Scalia has often asserted, that means executing an innocent person.

“Innocence does matter,” said Tatel. “Paul House should be given a new trial immediately, or he should be exonerated and released from death row.”

# # #



okay, you know something is up because i NEVER USE CAPITAL LETTERS...but this is just tooooooooooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooooood!!!

word has trickled out - the u.s. supreme court decision on the case of paul gregory house has come out and HOUSE WON...HOUSE WON...HOUSE WON!!!

click here, here, and here for background on this case of actual innocence of a death row inmate...

we do not have the details of the decision yet but as soon as we do we will post more information and issue a press statement...

oh yeah, you should know that house's mother joyce is simply giddy - so much thanks to everyone who has prayed on behalf of joyce, paul, and their entire family...

peace out - <3


more on mental illness and sentences for murder...

nicholas hilt was facing charges of premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder, child rape and aggravated child abuse ... ugly, ugly stuff ... i will not recount the horrific details here but you can read about them in this on-line article ...

tcask has recently blogged about attempts to expand the death penalty for child rape as well as mental illness and capital punishment and this case brings both of these issues into play with a better than expected outcome...

hilt was sentenced to life without parole for the murder charge and will be sentenced August 29th on the rape and child abuse charges...

now the death penalty was on the table originally but prosecutor barry steelman decided ultimately not to pursue a death sentence...


his office reports that they questioned his (hilt's) mental state...

good for steelman - the victim's family will be able to begin the long road to healing much sooner than if hilt had received a death sentence...

now, if we could divert the $$$ saved by steelman's decision into victim's counseling and other victim's services we might have the beginning of a better model of responding to such a horrendous crime...

peace out - <3

Saturday, June 10, 2006


how emotions can lead to (really) bad public policy...

yesterday oklahoma's governor signed into law a bill expanding the death penalty to include anyone twice convicted of rape, sodomy or lewd molestation involving children under 14 ... a day earlier, south carolina's governor signed a bill making a second rape of a child younger than 11 capital crime...

one can easily understand an impulse to protect our children ... but how one responds to that impulse says much about their capacity to link means to ends...

does killing child rapists protect our children??? absolutely not, in fact, the law may send the message to molesters "you might as well kill the child" since they already face a death sentence...

that's the very definition of bad policy -- seeking one end yet obtaining just the opposite...

fortunately tcask was instrumental in beating back a similar effort in tennessee earlier this year ... in case you missed the lil' jesuit dude's blog about it check it out now...

rather than expand a death penalty system that is reserved for the unluckiest of the unlucky, we should end it ... studies consistently find that you are more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a caucasian than an african american or a hispanic; some counties pursue the death penalty more than others, leaving the decision of life or death to elected prosecutors rather than a consistent, fair, system; people who can't afford an attorney are too often appointed lawyers who are asleep, drunk, unqualified or simply incapable of doing a good job at their trial...

the same type of emotional response that led to the passage of these 2 bills is what continues to drive soft public support for the death penalty in general ... rather than diverting tens and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on retribution that fails to deter a single murder, we should invest in programs that promote the healing of murder victims, compensate them for their loss, and promote the actual prevention of violent crime in the communities where we live...

peace out - <3

Friday, June 09, 2006


the governor can make a difference...

there is a debate in political science as to whether individuals can be uniquely responsible for impacting history or whether structural constraints dictate that certain events would have occured regardless of individual political leadership - (the classic discussion regards cuba and whether or not there would have been a revolution against batista with or without fidel castro, personally, to lead it) ...

yesterday afternoon the u.s. supreme court declined to intervene in the case of percy walton, who was scheduled for execution at 9 p.m....

shortly thereafter, virginia gov. tim kaine announced that he is granting a six-month stay of execution for walton so that the facts of his case (and, in particular we presume, his claim of mental illness) might be studied further...

so the question pops up, does the person in the executive seat of the state matter? that is, would kaine's predecessor mark warner have issued the reprieve?

probably not...virginia had carried out 11 executions under warner's signature before he commuted robin lovitt's sentence to life without parole late last year...

and the most well known example of an executive making a difference is former illinois governor ryan's declaration of a moratorium on executions in 2000 and his commutation of over 160 death sentences to life without parole just before he left office in 2003...

so how about tennessee which is a weak executive - strong legislative state ??? governor bredesen is odds on favorite to win re-election this fall and there is experience enough to believe that he may not budge on this issue on his own accord...

so what does this suggest? the tennessee coalition to abolish state killing is pursuing a legislative strategy because that's where the power is - that's "who" can deliver what we want: a moratorium and study for now to give legislators the tools they need to begin backing away from their public "support" of the death penalty... and it's through the process of building a strong, statewide grassroots organization that the initial push on elected officials to re-think this issue will emerge...

after all, if you walk up to a deep and wide ravine you can't just step off the edge and fly to where you see that you want to be ... you have to build a bridge of some sort so that you, and everyone else, can feel safe in journeying to the other side...

peace out - <3