Monday, April 30, 2007
You can check out more complete coverage by the Tennessean here.
And check out pictures of the event (courtesy of TCASK official photographers, Harry and Karan Simpson) here.
Friday, April 27, 2007
But how much does the Governor need to hear? He knows that there hasn't been an independent and open review of execution protocols! He knows that the American Bar Association has found Tennessee's death penalty to be so broken that they've called on him to extend his current moratorium! He knows that hundreds of Tennesseans have called and emailed him over the last week calling on him to extend his moratorium until a full study (like HB 2162/SB1911 calls for) can be conducted! And on Monday he'll hear from Sister Helen Prejean and faith leaders across Tennessee, including Bishops of the Catholic and Episcopal churches, the president of the IMF, and Baptist ministers, that people of faith do not want to see a broken system continue to operate!
How much more does the Governor need to hear?
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Today, the Nashville Scene carried a terrific story on the Governor's current position as he refuses to extend the moratorium. Check it out.
Also, on the bright side, Tennessee has one less death row inmate today! The Court of Criminal Appeals has overturned the death sentence of Ricky Thompson. The Chattanooga Times- Free Press has the story.
And, of course, you can check out the Scene's comment on the ruling in their favor to turn over the relevant information on the DOC's review of the executions protocols.
And don't forget to take action online to call on the Governor to extend the moratorium and forward the action alert to all your friends and family!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The Nashville Post has the story here.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Nashville: The House Civil Practice and Procedure Subcommittee today unanimously approved legislation introduced by Representative Rob Briley (D- Nashville) and Senator Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) to create a commission to conduct a thorough study of the state’s death penalty system. The legislation follows a call yesterday by the American Bar Association, after a three-year assessment process of Tennessee’s capital punishment system that found deep flaws throughout the capital punishment process. The bill has co-sponsors from both parties and from East, Middle, and West Tennessee.
“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 the ABA Assessment, the Tennessee capital punishment system suffers from serious flaws. Tennessee continues to sentence people with severe mental disabilities to death, racial and geographic disparities continue to plague the system (40% of Tennessee’s death row population is African-American), and inadequate defense counsel and flaws in preserving DNA evidence cause questions regarding the reliability of death penalty convictions. Moreover, nearly all of Tennessee’s 102 death row inmates were indigent and could not afford a lawyer at trial. There are several cases where serious questions exist regarding the factual guilt or innocence of the convicted man.
“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 proposed legislation would create a balanced study commission with 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 bill passed with bi-partisan support and will now head to the full Judiciary Committee.
“We cannot stop with a review of our so-called ‘sloppy’ execution protocols,” said Rector. “We must examine the entire system in order to address the wide-ranging problems before Tennessee makes an irreversible mistake.”
Monday, April 23, 2007
- Racial and geographic disparities plague Tennessee's death penalty
- DNA evidence does not have to be preserved at all stages of the process
- Tennessee sentences people with severe mental disabilities to death
- Problems with inadequate defense counsel persist.
- There are inadequate mechanisms for examining claims of factual innocence.
The release of this report is extremely well-timed as we being our own push to ask the Governor to extend the moratorium. You can join in the action by clicking here to send an email and fax to the Governor calling on him to extend his moratorium, and you can forward the action page to all of your friends!
Take action now!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Just want to thank you again for being such a good leader and organizer for those of us from Memphis who have been working to end the death penalty in Tennessee, and especially for the Justice Day on the Hill experience. Without your leadership, I probably would not have requested an appointment with my reps for last week's Catholic Day on the Hill. I returned to Nashville with confidence to speak up about immigration reform because of my years of involvement in teaching English to immigrants and refugees. I brought two people with me from (my church) who had never done this before. (One) was especially concerned about health care and TennCare reform because of her job as a social worker with the elderly poor. And they looked to ME as if I knew what I was doing! You've made me a more effective advocate because I not only speak up locally now, but I am no longer timid about approaching our representatives who make policy decisions."
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN)
The ACLU of Tennessee is a private nonprofit non-partisan membership organization whose mission is to protect and promote civil liberties through public education, advocacy, litigation, and legislative efforts.
The ACLU-TN is seeking an administrative coordinator who will assist the Executive Director, will manage the office, and coordinate volunteers. The Administrative Coordinator reports directly to the Executive Director and is part of a critical team that works to preserve the Bill of Rights.
Manage office, including bookkeeping, answering the telephone, responding to correspondence, preparing mailings, filing, and maintaining office supplies;
Create and maintain computer records and generate reports;
Prepare correspondence, draft memos and reports, and respond to member inquiries;
Recruit, train, and supervise volunteers;
Maintain website and coordinate and write content for website;
Write copy for and design newsletters;
Triage intake and provide general information and referral services and revise as needed resource book;
Oversee production of public education and fundraising materials;
Manage processing of donations and memberships including checks and credit cards, reporting gifts to national office, coordinate changes and updates with National, generating acknowledgment letters and maintaining paper records;
Assist with special projects, including implementation of public education and fundraising events
Proficiency in Microsoft Office 2003, Quickbooks, and Microsoft Publisher or other design programs;
Experience with or willingness to learn web design program;
A Bachelor’s Degree;
Excellent writing and analytical skills and strong verbal and interpersonal skills;
Ability to take the initiative and work creatively and independently;
Work or volunteer experience that demonstrates a confident and professional work style, including a respect for confidentiality and the ability to exercise good judgment in stressful circumstances;
Ability to handle multiple tasks, work well under pressure, and meet deadlines;
Sense of Humor
Salary and Benefits:
$26,000 - $31,000 (commensurate with experience) with excellent health and dental insurance benefits
Applicants should submit a letter of interest, resume, and a list of three references to: Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director, ACLU-TN, Post Office Box 120160, Nashville, TN.
Application Deadline: Review of resumes will begin will begin April 27, 2007. Position will remain open until the right person is found.
The ACLU-TN is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBT individuals, and people with disabilities to apply.
Monday, April 16, 2007
One quick note, the bill will be heard by the House Subcommittee on Civil Practice and Procedure tomorrow, not the Senate Judiciary.
Read the entire article here.
That's what happened last year when two Ohio inmates sought to delay their executions so they could join an appeal challenging lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment. Jerome Henderson won his case in a 2-1 vote, but Jeffrey Lundgren went before a different panel and lost 2-1.
Lundgren was executed.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), of which NCADP is a member organization, is planning an unprecedented effort to encourage the Congress to grant voting rights to the District of Columbia, and NCADP has been asked to take part in the grassroots and legislative outreach components. On April 16th, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, along with DC Vote, numerous coalition partners, and the Office of the Mayor, will host what they hope to be the largest demonstration for D.C. voting rights in history.
Our support for this effort is based on the fact that we have an interest in assuring that the people of the District of Columbia, who have overwhelmingly demonstrated their opposition to capital punishment, have a vote on this issue in the House of Representatives. Some of you will remember that in 1994, NCADP and other organizations led a successful effort to defeat a referendum to reinstate the death penalty in D.C.. That referendum had been mandated by a law passed by Congress to place the measure on the D.C. ballot.
There are two ways you can make your voice heard for voting rights and LCCR has laid out both options, just click the links below:
If you live in the District or will be near the District on Monday, April 16, please click here:
If you live outside the District, please click here:
It is not often that we will call on people to help in an effort that is not directly death penalty related, but this is such a watershed issue and the anti-death penalty heritage of the DC citizens makes this effort extraordinarily important.
Thank you again for your support...
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Yes, it's true that the Tennessee Department of Corrections needs to know that one paltry hearing with almost no warning or notice is not enough to allow Tennesseans to truly have input on a process as serious as our state killing a person (see previous posts here, here, and here). But that's not the reason that I want you so desperately to read your email.
Honestly, the reason is because I hate computers. Now Stacy and I are not computer people, but we have some terrific volunteers who help us out with all stuff techy. Joe Irrera has done an amazing job creating a database for TCASK which allows us to send out targeted email blasts, sort our list by legislative district, or geographic area, or anything. But we are having huge troubles getting our email program working. And we can never seem to get an e-blast out properly.
So last night, we were at it again. We started the email program and went out for a dinner meeting, only to return to find both office computers crashing. So there I was, a little after 8:00 at night and having to restart and resend and try ensure that we don't send the same email to someone 3 or 4 times.
Eventually, the wonderful James Staub joined me (James knows so much more about computers than I do that it's staggering) and tweaked and tugged at the machies until we finally got all the emails out. But by that time, it was about 12:30 or so. And without James, I might never have gotten home last night!
So, please read your email and take action to ensure that we get a real public hearing (that the public actually knows about in advance). And please know that, if your emails aren't formatted properly, or you're getting double emails, or sometimes none at all, we certainly are trying! Hopefully, we will very soon have all of this figured out and we can concentrate on those other things - like the pesky little details of actually abolishing the death penalty!
(As a funny aside, I had tried to include some pictures with this post, but, for some reason, I cannot get my computer to properly upload them. Ah, irony.)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Catholic Public Policy Commission is one of TCASK's most important legislative partners. Tomorrow, representatives will hear from hundreds of Catholics about why this bill is important. And they've already heard it on the NAACP's lobby day, NAMI Day on the Hill, and Justice Day on the Hill. The more voices raised against this unjust policy, the better!
And of course the other question is how is the public supposed to comment on a protocol that we haven't seen yet? Is it designed by doctors? I don't know. Has it been reviewed by independent experts? I don't know. Will the completed protocols be available for meaningful review before we carry out an execution (Phillip Workman is scheduled to die on May 9th)? I don't know. But I doubt it.
And really, this should be a no brainer. A good piece in The City Paper, "Take Time Deciding Ultimate Penalty," today makes this point. No one should be in favor of carrying out executions in an inhumane manner. Florida is taking this process seriously and has had a number of serious hearings and discussion about the process. Why can't Tennessee have some real hearings, with a fair amount of warning in advance and a chance for people all around the state to make comments and share their concerns.
Monday, April 09, 2007
“The Shelby County Commission has taken a bold and necessary step today,” said Reverend Stacy Rector, Executive Director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing. “Tennessee’s death penalty system is dangerously broken and our state representatives need to take steps to fix it before we consider carrying out any more executions.”
Nationwide over 120 men have been freed from death rows after evidence of their innocence came to light, roughly one exoneration for every nine executions in the same period of time. African-Americans make up 40% of Tennessee’s death row, while comprising only 17% of the population. A nationwide study found that a person was four times as likely to face the death penalty for the murder of a white victim then a victim of color.
“Tennessee’s death penalty is unfairly targeting the black community,” said Mrs. Johnnie Turner, president of the Memphis NAACP Branch, who testified before the Commission’s Legislative Committee. “I am proud that the County Commission acted to ensure that life and death decisions are not be meted out based on a person’s color.”
The moratorium that the resolution calls for would halt only executions for two years while the problems of Tennessee’s death penalty are examined. The trial and appellate processes would continue in their usual way. The Shelby County Commission joins the Nashville-Davidson Metro Council which has previously called for a moratorium on executions.
“The governments of the two largest counties in the state have now called for a moratorium on executions,” said Rector. “Our state policy-makers should take notice and act before Tennessee makes an irreversible error.”
CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” which airs at 10 p.m. East Coast time (check your local listings) is expected to air an investigative piece on Cameron Todd Willingham tonight.
Many of you will recall that Willingham – one of four people featured in NCADP’s report, “Innocent and Executed: Four Chapters in the Life of America’s Death Penalty” – was executed in Texas three years ago despite evidence that the fire that took his children’s lives was accidental, not intentionally set. The Chicago Tribune (which this month or next month might be winning a Pulitizer Prize for its death penalty reporting in Texas) broke the story about the faulty arson science behind Willingham’s conviction. You can read their story here.
We do not know at this time whether the CNN report will include any new information. Also, be advised that the report could very well be bumped if there is breaking news of any sort (Iraq, Alberto Gonzales, Anna Nicole Smith, etc.)
Friday, April 06, 2007
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.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Today, Reverend Joe Ingle, a long-time leader in the struggle against the death penalty, has a very moving piece regarding the decision of the Governor to hold hearings on the "proper" means of killing someone during the week when we remember Jesus' execution. Reverend Ingle writes, "It is also clear how inconsequential the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is to the state of Tennessee that it would actually publicly convene a gathering designed to kill citizens efficaciously in Tennessee during the very week Christians are contemplating the Roman state's killing of Jesus." Read the entire piece here.
At 3:00 today, the Department of Corrections will give the public it's first glimpse into what it is planning for Tennessee's "new and improved" method of executions. Yesterday's paper carried a articulate column by mike Passino calling for a true and open examination of the process, something Tennessee has so far not provided. You can read Passino's column here, and then come and join TCASK from 3:00 - 6:00 in the multimedia room of the Snodgrass Tower at 312 8th Avenue North to demand that the public be given a full opportunity to have input into the process!
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
However, in today's Tennessean, an article by Shelia Burke, announces that an open, public hearing will be held on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. in the multimedia room of the Tennessee Snodgrass Tower, 312 8th Avenue North. Doctors and lawyers representing inmates on death row will be among those invited to speak.
This meeting is an important one for those of us who believe that the execution protocols in Tennessee are inhumane and that the Governor's current moratorium on executions should be extended past the May 2 deadline. 90 days is not enough time to address all the problems with the execution protocols, particularly considering major issues such as the appropriate dosages of the three chemicals used in the lethal injection process are currently not even written down. However, we should not stop with the execution protocols, but instead, continue the moratorium in order for a full study of the entire death penalty system to be conducted. If such problems exist in the protocols, how much greater must the problems be system wide?
If you are able to attend this meeting, I hope that you will. We need for officials to understand that people care about this issue. We need them to understand why the process must be open. We need them to allow enough time for a thorough examination of the protocols to occur. It is a matter of life and death. I hope to see you on Thursday.
Monday, April 02, 2007
In 1973, Shujaa was convicted for the murder of a prison guard in California, and in 1976, after all black jurors were excluded from the jury, Shujaa, and African-American man, was sentenced to death. It took three more years to get Shujaa's death sentence overturned, and several more years before a fourth trial finally exonerated Shujaa and he was freed in 1981. Shujaa now serves on the board of directors of the Journey of Hope, which is where I was privileged to meet him for the first time last fall.
I would like to tell you that Shujaa's experience is unique, but, sadly, it is not. Shujaa is just one of the 123 men to be exonerated from death rows in America in the modern era (about 1 exoneration for every 9 executions in the same time period). More than half of those people were people of color, and Shujaa is also not unique in being a person of color tried before an all white jury. In Tennessee, a full quarter of the African-American men sentenced to death in Tennessee have been sentenced by all-white juries. This includes Erskine Johnson, convicted in Memphis (with a population roughly 50% African-American) of a 1985 murder, despite the fact that he was in St. Louis at the time. Johnson's death sentence has been overturned, but he is still serving a life sentence for a crime that he, in all likelihood, did not commit. And let's not forget Paul House.
I'm sure that Shujaa's visit will help us call attention to the deadly flaws in Tennessee's capital punishment system. Keep you eyes on news channel 2 tonight or tomorrow for Shujaa's story!