Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Channel 2 Clues into the Truth

Over the weekend, WKRN here in Nashville, during part of a story on the second botched execution in a row in Iraq, did a piece on the use of the death penalty here in the U.S. The story featured a phone interview with Kelley Henry, of the Federal Public Defenders. Kelley was one of the attorneys for Sedley Alley, and she gave an excellent interview, hitting all the major points:
  • Juries preferring life without parole to capital punishment
  • The frighteningly high number of innocent people sentenced to death
  • Tennessee's odd position - a large death row but few executions.

Congrats to Kelley, a credit to her work and to all of us here in Tennessee. Check out the whole story here.

Comments :
Death penalty gets surprising support

To the Editor:

I was a bit surprised to read District Attorney Ray Whitley's support for the death penalty in a recent edition of The Tennessean. ("Death penalty adds to value of life," Jan. 5)

In the early 1990s, DA Whitley tried and convicted Robert Spurlock and Ronnie Marshall of first-degree murder of Lonnie Malone. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned those convictions, citing the DA failed to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, failed to correct false testimony, and presented false evidence during the case.

Mr. Marshall then entered a "best interest plea" guilty plea. Mr. Spurlock was tried again and convicted of second-degree murder. Both Marshall and Spurlock's convictions were vacated when another person, Michael Dancer, was charged with the first-degree murder of Lonnie Malone.

As humans we make mistakes. I'm sure the DA as well as the juries involved believed the two individuals guilty. In any case they were wrongly convicted of first degree murder.

Joel Yates

White House 37188
Friday, 01/19/07

Letters to the Editor: Morally wrong to have high food tax

To the Editor:

I read in the article, "Bredesen: Gas tax may rise," Jan. 13, that the governor and some in the legislature are considering a tax increase on cigarettes. Tennessee's tax on cigarettes is still one of the lowest compared with other states; less than one fourth the national average. But Tennessee's tax on grocery food — 6 percent — is one of the highest in the country.

In fact, Tennessee is one of the few states that still levies a sales tax on grocery food. One possibility is to use the new tax revenue from a higher tax on cigarettes to lower the state sales tax of 6 percent on grocery food.

Because food is an absolute necessity for everyone, it is morally wrong to derive state revenue from taxing grocery food. Still, the state goes on charging 6 percent sales tax on baby food, but it doesn't charge any sales tax on oats for racehorses.

What kind of sense does that make? Isn't it time to bring some sensibility to our Tennessee state tax system?

Phil Schoggen

Nashville 37205

Will extra tax help finish Briley Parkway?

To the Editor:

I understand Gov. Phil Bredesen wants to raise the tax on gasoline to fund better roads in Tennessee. Does that mean Briley Parkway will be finished this decade?

Martin Barber

Nashville 37211


Innocent people are killed every day

To the Editor:

There are two things wrong with letters that oppose the death penalty but support life without parole, the latest being Bob Fajardo's which appeared on Jan. 16, "Life in prison, yes; death penalty, no."

First, there is no such thing as life without parole for this reason: Such a law can be repealed at any time nullifying the sentence and requiring some kind of re-sentencing.

Second, if a prisoner serving life without parole kills a prison guard, no additional punishment can be imposed — thus, we accommodate murder with impunity. Clearly outrageous.

When opponents of the death penalty are asked what further punishment is warranted, they shrug their shoulders in silence.

I support the death penalty as a matter of justice. Punishment should fit the crime by exacting upon the convict a penalty that closely approximates the damage he caused. Criminals such as Saddam Hussein or Timothy McVeigh can never know the grief, the pain, the anguish they caused survivors. Genuine justice can only come when they pay with their lives.

For those who worry about killing an innocent person, please know that we lose the lives of innocent people regularly. Ask test pilots, policemen, firemen and soldiers, all of whose lives are far, far more valuable than those of murderers.

Gene A. Russell

Nashville 37201

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