Friday, April 06, 2007


Good Friday Reflections

Yesterday at 3:00 p.m., a public hearing was held by the Tennessee Department of Corrections to get feedback on execution protocols in Tennessee. Until yesterday, the process of revising the protocols had occurred behind closed doors. The first that the TCASK office heard of this hearing was late Tuesday afternoon with the meeting scheduled to be held on Thursday. After some investigation, I was told that the Department had invited a variety of people to speak, including lawyers, medical personnel, and pharmacology experts. I had hoped for a hearing which provided information as to the inhumane-ness of the lethal injection protocol while also highlighting the state's lack of transparency and truncated time frame of only 90 days to fix a protocol that, by the Governor's own admission, is "sloppy" at best.

Upon arriving at the hearing, only two invited speakers were present, attorneys Kelly Henry and Mike Passino, who did an outstanding job of outlining the dire consequences of closed meetings without sufficient time for the Department to accomplish the task that they were given. No medical or pharmacological experts testified. Rev. Joe Ingle and Harmon Wray both spoke. Rev. Ingle spoke to the history of lethal injection, including the renunciation of the process by the man who created it for the state of Oklahoma, as well as referencing the association with the Third Reich who first utilized the procedure in concentration camps. Harmon Wray, when asked by Commissioner Little to speak only to the protocols, reminded all of us that Jesus was not concerned about protocols.

The hearing lasted less than an hour. TCASK did have several members present at the hearing, along with lawyers and some media. Unfortunately, the lack of notice given for this most important meeting did not allow us the time we needed to truly organize the way that we would have liked. As a pastor, my stomach felt sick as I sat in a room on Maundy Thursday, the day Jesus ate his final meal, to discuss how the state can strive to more humanely take a human life.

Furthermore, last night, John Seigenthaler interviewed Governor Bredesen on his PBS show One on One with John Seigenthaler about the issues facing Tennessee. With the courageous spirit of a true journalist, Mr. Seigenthaler asked the Governor about the current moratorium, to which the Governor responded that he believed that the commission could get the job done by May 2 in order that future executions be carried out in a "dignified" manner, executions such as that of Philip Workman scheduled in Tennessee on May 9th.

How on earth does the state kill a human being in a way that is dignified? There is nothing dignified about murder. Furthermore, Mr. Seigenthaler asked the Governor about the Paul House case to which the Governor replied that he wanted the courts to work it out, though the courts have not granted House justice in this case for over 20 years. And, even with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that "no reasonable juror would have lacked a reasonable doubt" in this case, Paul House is still on death row.

On this Good Friday, as Christians reflect on the execution of Jesus, I hope that all of us will renew our commitment to end the inhumane practice of state killing, the same practice that took the life of Jesus and threatens to take the life of thousands within our nation, some of them innocent people. As Good Friday services are occurring this evening, I hope that those attending will remember human beings who are languishing on death rows, facing the same fate as Jesus at the hands of a state which chooses to usurp the role of God.
Comments :
All the speakers were very impressive and top notch in my opinion. All the speakers were sympathetic to the impossible charge the committee received from the governor. I did hope to hear more about what the panel had come up with so far but as far as I could tell there really was no dialog and the panel really wasn't there to share what they had with the public.
One thing shouldn't have been missed by anyone there was the fact that the review done correctly could not be completed in the time alotted to the committee. Hopefully the governor will not short change Tennessee's citizens in this process.
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