Friday, February 09, 2007

 

Better Things to Do

Thanks to Dwight Lewis of The Tennessean who again is highlighting the ongoing problems with the death penalty--this time focusing on lethal injection. Lewis recalls that last year, now retired State Supreme Court Justice Adolpho A. Birch asked the Governor to suspend the use of lethal injection in Tennessee, citing problems with the procedure. However, the Governor finally took notice only earlier this month after a hearing had been called by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger, who wanted state officials to bring forth the state's procedures.

When the Attorney General sat down and looked at the procedures, seemingly important matters, such as the amount of chemicals to be used in the execution, were lacking. The Governor is quoted as saying, "From what I can tell, there was nothing wrong with the two executions (that have been carried out in the state since 1960); it was simply a matter of stuff that ought to be spelled out in great detail and very carefully so there are no mistakes."

Good luck on the "no mistakes" part. As far as I know, nothing or no one is immune to making mistakes, particularly in a large, complex institution like state government. Will mistakes continue to be made no matter how the state dresses up the protocol? Absolutely. Will mistakes continue to be made in a system which sometimes sends innocent people to death row? Just ask Paul House. When are we going to stop spending so much time and money on a system that has failed and continues to fail? Don't we have better things to do?
Comments :
missed this one...

Tennessee Voices: This state's execution system not just sloppy; it is an abominable mess

By EDWIN C. SANDERS


On Feb. 1, Gov. Phil Bredesen called a 90-day halt to executions while the Tennessee Department of Correction reviews its execution protocols, which the governor referred to as "sloppy."

Another way to put it is that the death penalty in Tennessee is a mess. The mess doesn't stop with the execution protocols; it starts there. Tennesseans cannot trust the state to carry out executions in a humane manner, nor can we trust the state to administer the death penalty with justice and accuracy. The state needs to overhaul the entire capital punishment system.

Tennessee's death penalty is rife with errors. It begins with errors in sentencing. Half of all death sentences in our state are overturned on appeal due to serious constitutional error, according to The Tennessean. That means that half the time that we sentence someone to death, we do so inappropriately.

Paul House has been sitting on Tennessee's death row for more than 20 years despite uncontested DNA evidence that proves House did not rape the woman he was accused of murdering (rape being the state's theory of the crime). In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court found in June 2006 that "viewing the record as a whole, no reasonable juror would have lacked a reasonable doubt." In other words, no jury in the country would have convicted House had they been presented with all the evidence available today. However, House still sits on death row.

Try to tell Paul's mother, Joyce, that Tennessee's death penalty system doesn't need an overhaul.

Nearly every one of the 102 people on Tennessee's death row could not afford an attorney at trial. Minorities are disproportionately sentenced to death, and a full quarter of African-Americans on Tennessee's death row were sentenced by all-white juries. A disproportionate number of Tennessee death row inmates suffer from severe mental illness, including Greg Thompson. Here is a man so mentally ill that the state must forcibly medicate him to the point of being "sane enough to execute."

Every study has found that the death penalty actually costs taxpayers millions of dollars above and beyond the cost of life imprisonment.

Ultimately this discussion leads us to one inevitable point: Killing another human being in the name of justice is simply wrong. Let us hope that Tennessee finally abolishes this abominable, barbaric and immoral practice.
 
I think I was giving too much credit to Phil for suspending the executions 90 days. All the credit really goes to Judge Trauger. I agree with you, Stacy, that if this one issue were put to rest by halting executions forever in TN (just saying the word execution is upsetting to me) so many other issues could be worked on - um, can we say homelessness, health insurance for all, how about improving public eduation. ugh.
 
Also- this article was in the Sunday New York Times magazine yesterdayhttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/magazine/11injection.t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=magazine:
I will send the link to you directly Stacy.
 
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