Tuesday, April 08, 2008


How Ironic

Yesterday Judge Harry S. Mattice ruled that Paul House should be released to the care of his mother pending a hearing on May 28 to determine the conditions of that release. In his order he stated:

The public has a compelling interest in the State not continuing to incarcerate individuals who have not been accorded their constitutional right to a fair trial. Citizens will not have confidence in the criminal justice system unless they are convinced that the system is compliant with constitutional norms. The petitioner in this case has been incarcerated for 22 years as the result of a trial which this court, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States, has determined to have been fundamentally unfair.

I find it ironic that this ruling comes just one day after the Tennessean ran an article voicing the DA's Conference belief that the death penalty study should not be continued in this state. In 2007, Michael McCormick was found not guilty in a new trial after spending 15 years on Tennessee's death row, and now Paul House will hopefully go home after 22 years though his case is still very much unresolved. And yet, the DA's conference would have us believe that the system does not have issues which need to be addressed? Perhaps they should ask Michael McCormick or Paul House if they think an extra year of study is asking too much of our legislature to be sure that the system is working as it should be?

Not only was the Paul House story in today's Tennessean, but also, a wonderful article co-authored by Senator Doug Jackson and Representative Kent Coleman ran in the Tennessee Voices section of the paper. Jackson and Coleman are co-chairs of the Committee to Study the Adminstration of the Death Penalty, and they thoughtfully address the concerns of the DA's Conference. Let's hope that Tennessee legislators will allow this Committee the time needed to complete this important work on behalf of the citizens of this state.
Comments :
The release of House and the new not guilty verdict of McCormick are strong indicators that the state of Tennessee has to seriously reform its death penalty. A study committee is the tool to do this. The DA's response to the potential extension of the study is curious to me. They should be the first ones advocating to make the system more efficient. It will certainly serve to make their jobs easier, something I'm sure they would welcome.
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