Wednesday, May 02, 2007


House Judiciary Committee Approves Full Study of Death Penalty

Read the TCASK Press Release Below:

Study Bill Moves as Governor Allows Moratorium to Expire

Nashville: The House Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved legislation, introduced by Representative Rob Briley (D- Nashville) and Senator Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) and co-sponsored by members of both parties, to create a commission to conduct a thorough study of the state’s death penalty system. The commission would include representatives appointed by the Governor, the Senate, and the House, as well as lawyers for both the defense and prosecution, mental health advocates, and victims advocates. The commission would make recommendations to the legislature as to how the identified problems should be addressed

“The members of the committee affirmed today that Tennessee’s capital punishment system is a mess,” said Reverend Stacy Rector, Executive Director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing. “The death penalty in Tennessee is dangerously broken and our state representatives need to take steps to address all its problems.”

According to an assessment released last week by the American Bar Association, which has no position on the death penalty, the Tennessee capital punishment system suffers from serious flaws. Tennessee does not have protocols mandating the preservation of DNA evidence throughout a death row inmate’s incarceration. Moreover, inmates are not provided with proper avenues to address claims of factual innocence, leading to the serious and deadly risk that Tennessee could execute an innocent person. Moreover, the assessment found, Tennessee’s death penalty system continues to be applied unfairly along racial, economic, and geographic lines, and people with severe mental illness continue to face death sentences.

“At the very least, Tennesseans deserve to know that the capital punishment system is functioning properly,” said Rector. “The only way to begin to address it flaws and ensure that an innocent person is not executed is to conduct a full study examining every aspect of the system to ensure its reliability.”

The legislation passed on the same day as Governor Phil Bredesen allowed his 90-day moratorium on executions, put in place to study Tennessee’s execution protocols, to expire. The Governor ignored the findings of the ABA which called for a continuation of the current moratorium and a complete study of the death penalty, as well as a letter from nearly 200 faith leaders from across Tennessee calling on him to act to ensure that fairness and equity prevail in Tennessee’s death penalty system. A poll conducted by the Global Strategies group found that 66% of Tennesseans would have approved of an extension of the moratorium.

“It is disappointing that the Governor is allowing executions to resume even after he’s heard from legal experts, faith leaders, and the people of Tennessee that we should act to fix a broken system,” said Rector. “But it is encouraging that the General Assembly is taking steps to address the serious flaws in Tennessee’s capital punishment system.”

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