Friday, January 04, 2008


Let's Wait on the U.S. Supreme Court

Yesterday, three Tennessee legislators called upon Governor Bredesen to move forward with the execution of Paul Dennis Reid who was convicted for the murders of seven people in the 1990's. The leaders urged the Governor to execute Reid by some other method available to the state, circumventing the controversy concerning the lethal injection protocols which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The legislators claim that Tennessee requires the state to carry out executions by any other constitutional means when one method is unavailable due to a judicial ruling. Read more here.

However, according to my reading of the Tennessee code, the state cannot move forward with Reid's execution by another method because Reid would either have to choose electrocution, waiving his right to lethal injection, or the courts would have to rule that lethal injection, as a method of execution, is unconstitutional. What appears to be a point of confusion is that the U.S. Supreme Court is not considering the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution but is instead considering the constitutionality of the particular three-drug protocol currently utilized in the process of lethal injection. These are very different things.

Therefore, the state of Tennessee cannot move to execute Reid according to Tennessee code which asserts that the method of execution in Tennessee shall be lethal injection unless electrocution is chosen by an inmate who has been sentenced for crimes committed before Jan. 1, 1999.

Representative Mumpower, one of the three calling on Governor Bredesen to push for Reid's execution, even goes so far as to call the Governor "the champion" of Paul Dennis Reid and others on death row because the Governor is not pushing for the execution. Such a characterization is not only unfair but simply not based in fact. Sadly, it seems that these legislators, though perhaps believing that they are standing up for Reid's victims, are only encouraging a false notion that the law will allow for his execution by another means when I would argue that it doesn't. I fear that their actions set up these already traumatized families for more disappointment, another reason why the death penalty does no service to victims' families.

Just imagine if Reid had gotten life without parole instead of death. He would be serving his sentence, locked up in his cell more than 20 hours a day, without the constant attention of the media and politicians invoking his name. These families wouldn't have to be continually confronted with the worst tragedy of their lives while they wait for some supposed closure that may never even come. Instead, perhaps they could begin to find some peace.

My heart goes out to those who have suffered such horrific loss at the hands of Paul Reid. However, playing politics with such painful circumstances only compounds the tragedy.
Comments :
A Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist can't wait to execute a living being.....that's pretty sad.
I don't think one can forget that the death penalty is a legal punishment. To say, well, gee, because some lawyers have gotten courts to delay these executions that government should simply give up. Enforcing laws passed by a free society is the very essence of democracy. It's fundamentally undemocratic to simply walk away from the death penalty. Society has made its decision through lawful means--you may not like the outcome, but so what, your calls for simply thwarting the will of society because of the review process imposed by the judiciary show a disdain for democracy and the right of a free people to govern itself. I don't like the marginal tax rates. I don't suggest that they should be thwarted by any means other than through the ballot box.
Thwarting the will of society? I guess the European nations that abolished the death penalty "thwarted the will of society" because there was still overwhelming support of the death penalty in those nations. I haven't seen any attempts to bring it back in those nations and I'd be curious to see their support of the death penalty now.

By no means am I disparaging the US, I love America and am proud of it. On that note, America is a society where the laws that govern us do change. Sometimes they change without the general consensus backing it. If democracy and law are the overarching themes that bolster your support of the death penalty, I question what your support of suffrage for women, or integrated schools, in the times those were being challenged would have been. You need to come up with a better reason than "the will of society."

Also, equating marginal tax rate to the death penalty is pretty pathetic and shows the kind of value you place on life. Yes these are lives that committed atrocious crimes and perhaps you see them as "monsters" but they are still human beings as defined by our constitution.
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