Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Governor Bredesen Commutes Death Sentence

On Friday, in a surprise move, Governor Phil Bredesen commuted the death sentence of Michael Joe Boyd, now Mika’eel Abdullah Abdus-Samad, to life without the possibility of parole. Boyd was scheduled to be executed on October 24, 2007. This announcement came only two days after the execution of Daryl Holton. Though Boyd’s death sentence was upheld by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1998 when they dismissed claims of ineffective counsel, Bredesen acknowledged in his order that the claims of ineffective counsel during Boyd’s sentencing have never been comprehensively reviewed.

Boyd was convicted in 1988 for the murder of William Price during an armed robbery in Memphis. Boyd claimed that he never meant to kill Price but was convicted of felony murder and given the death sentence.

Boyd’s case highlights the substantial problems concerning indigent defense in Tennessee and the lack of adequate representation for those charged with capital crimes. The issue of ineffective assistance of counsel is one of the major issues the legislative study committee on the death penalty is charged with addressing as it begins its work this fall. TCASK is grateful that the Governor acted with openness and fairness in acknowledging the problems with Boyd’s sentence and addressing them. Read more about the commutation.

As E.J. Harbison's scheduled execution approaches, I can only hope that the Governor will give his case the same scrutiny that he gave to Boyd's. The issues with Harbison's case include: police files not turned over to the defense until long after Harbison's conviction which indicated another man's involvement in the crime; a serious conflict of interest in that Harbison's appeals attorney also represented this other man, helping him to avoid charges; Harbison's co-defendant, David Schreane, who had an extensive criminal record, served only 6 years and committed more violent crime following his release while Haribson, who had no prior criminal record, ended up on death row; none of the powerful mitigating evidence which might have kept Harbison from receiving the death penalty was ever heard by the jury; Harbison was convicted by an all white jury in a county that is over 20% African-American.

If the courts do not provide E.J. Haribson with some relief, I hope that the Governor will examine this case carefully as he determines whether executive clemency is merited. Please call (#615-741-2001) or email the Governor phil.bredesen@state.tn.us and ask him to grant E.J. Harbison clemency.
Comments :
There you go again with the "all white jury".

About the only thing that can be said about Bredesen's decision to commute Boyd's sentence is that it happened before all the last-minute nonsense appeals that go deep into the night.

Boyd got lucky that Bredesen seems to have a soft spot. Why Bredesen chose to commute a death sentence for a guy who committed murder, got released and then participated in another murder is beyond comprehension. This guy Boyd is definitely the "worst of the worst" (a killer given a second chance who kills again). Perhaps it is to be explained by a lack of moral courage. In any event, Bredesen should have had more respect for the jury's verdict here.

With respect to Harbison's co-defendant, would you guys have felt better if he too got death? It sounds like he should have. There would be people who would not be victims had that happened.

I wonder whether Bredesen had the decency to give the victim's family a heads up before he decided to help a twice convicted murderer.
This is great news. Don't know what got into the Gov. but I feel better that he is acknowledging that action must be taken. The system is so messed up now, he'd best commute all the life sentences to life without parole as the maximum sentence. That would stop the cycle of violence. Spend the money saved on prison reform!! Let's all hope the Gov. will do the right thing in Harbison's case!
The victim's family members were on board for the commutation of Samad's death sentence. The defense team conmtacted them. The governor is very conscious of victim issues and I doubt he would have done anything without victim input. His wife started the state's most well known victim's rights organization.

You can see everything to do with the commutation of the governor's website linked to www.tennessee.gov
Good for the governor. I still think he should have let the execution proceed, though. A murderer who gets released and then kills again needs to be put down.
So what do you guys think of this? Off topic . . . .

Glad Harbison may get a stay on the fact that Judge Aleta Trauger ruled that Tennessee's lethal injection protocol violates the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment. Ironic thing is that there is so much else wrong with this case, I sure hope attention is not diverted from those things because of this.
But this is encouraging!
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