Monday, April 16, 2007


Legislative Action (Finally)

It's pedal to the metal time in the Tennessee General Assembly! And for the first time, TCASK has the possibility of actually passing legislation, in this case legislation to create a study commission to bring to light the deadly flaws in Tennessee's capital punishment system.

TCASK's legislative efforts got a terrific boost last week when two Republicans, Knoxville Representative Bill Dunn and Memphis Representative Delores Gresham, signed on as co-sponsors of the study bill! This makes our bill bi-partisan and proves once again that justice is not, and should not be, a partisan issue!

Even more importantly, the study bill will be voted on tomorrow at noon by the House Civil Practice and Procedure Subcommittee! This is the first time in recent history that any of our death penalty legislation may be able to move. You can view the entire membership of the subcommittee here, but two representatives particularly need to hear from their constituents immediately, Cookeville Democrat Henry Fincher (below) and Columbia Republican Tom DuBois (pictured at right). I've spoken to both of them and they remain on the fence regarding this legislation. So if you live in Cookeville or Columbia, or you know anyone who does, pick up the phone and call or have them call their representative and tell them:

1) You are a constituent
2) Tennesseans deserve a death penalty system they can trust
3) Please vote in favor of HB 2162, a bi-partisan effort to create a fair and balanced commission to examine the death penalty and guarantee that it is functioning fairly and accurately!

You can reach Representative Fincher at (615) 741-1875 or email him . You can reach Representative DuBois at (615) 741-7441 or email him . And of course, if you live in Knoxville or Memphis, call or write to Representatives Gresham and Dunn respectively and thank them for co-sponsoring HB 2162!

Comments :
Nashville Scene sues state over death penalty protocols
By Ken Whitehouse and E. Thomas Wood

04-17-2007 3:32 PM —
Nashville's alt-weekly Nashville Scene has filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court against Tennessee's Department of Corrections, seeking to make the state shed some light on its current effort to fine-tune how it puts condemned prisoners to death.

According to the Scene's attorney, John P. Williams of the law firm Tune, Entrekin and White, the lawsuit is a result of a open-records request that has been denied by the Department of Corrections and its commissioner, George Little.

On February 1 of this year, Gov. Phil Bredesen issued an executive order halting all executions for 90 days so that the Tennessee Department of Corrections could perform "a comprehensive review of the manner in which the death penalty is administered."

According to the order issued by the Governor, procedures for both lethal injections and electrocutions would be reviewed by, among others, experts from the legal, scientific, medical, and corrections fields. Additionally the governor has asked that the department review practices of other states.

The Nashville Scene has been trying to obtain documents in advance of new protocols being put in place in order to see what the committee appointed by Little is discussing.

Scene Editor Liz Garrigan told today that she filed a request two months ago under Tennessee's open-records law for information on how the new procedures would be developed. Kleinfelter wrote back with a copy of the current execution manual and some other documents, but told Garrigan that some information had been held back on the grounds that it was privileged material relating to policy deliberations.

According to the lawsuit, Assistant Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter, representing the Department of Corrections, described some of the withheld documents in her letter as "drafts of the [new execution] manual and the handwritten notes and comments of the individual members of the working group appointed by Commissioner Little, as well as a very limited number of emails between members of this group."

"We think the process ought be transparent," Garrigan said today. "We're talking about how we're going to go about killing people in this state. We think that ought to be an open discussion."
Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokesperson for the Attorney General's office, said that her office is not at liberty to discuss pending litigation.

A hearing has been set in Davdison County Chancery Court for Wednesday, April 25 at 9 a.m. Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman will hear the complaint.
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