Monday, June 23, 2008


Both Sides Agree System is Broken

Today's Nashville City Paper featured an excellent article written by John Rodgers reporting from the Promptness Sub-Committee meeting of the Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty. You can read more about the sub-committee meetings in previous blog posts. Read the Nashville City Paper article by clicking HERE.

The article keys in on the lengthiness associated with the death penalty process and the conversation that long time frame elicits amongst proponents and opponents. Important stakeholders, the family members of murder victims, share varying viewpoints when it comes to the death penalty. While it seems that proponents are in favor of capital punishment due to a desire to see such punishment meted out and to receive a sense of finality, they are growing skeptical of a system that takes decades to reach fruition.

"Verna Wyatt, the executive director of You Have the Power, a victim’s advocacy group, said making the families of victims wait oftentimes decades for the killer of their loved one to be put to death is “re-victimizing the victim … for years and years."

"I would like to say to Tennesseans — if you don’t think the death penalty is an appropriate punishment, then let’s not give it out because giving out a sentence of death, the victims families wait forever to get their justice,” Wyatt said. “So if Tennesseans don’t think that this is an appropriate punishment — then we shouldn't be giving it out. We shouldn't’t even be asking for it.”

I believe that Wyatt's sentiments are right on target. The state is making a promise to families that it simply cannot keep. Another approach that some victims' families take is the one chosen by the Strobel family. Charlie Strobel's mother was murdered and as opponents of the death penalty, Strobel and his family asked that prosecutors not to seek the death penalty for the murderer.

"Strobel’s mother was murdered and he said his family received closure quicker because they told prosecutors they did not want the killer executed.

Instead, three life sentences without parole were handed down, Strobel said.

“It just is awfully, awfully painful to hear that people are stuck waiting for a justice that doesn't close anything,” Strobel said, adding that the state should help families understand the appellate process better.

In other Tennessee death penalty news, the US Supreme Court has taken the case of EJ Harbison on "whether poor death row inmates seeking mercy from state officials have a right to lawyers paid for by federal taxpayers." Read more about this by clicking HERE.

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