Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Memphis Commerical Appeal Editorial and Analysis

On Sunday, January 25, the Memphis Commercial Appeal published an editorial and lengthy analysis of the current state of Tennessee's death penalty.

Read the editorial by CLICKING HERE. Read the analysis by CLICKING HERE.


"There is nothing government does that is more profound than to take the life of a citizen."

The editorial endorses reforms that the Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty has discussed: recording all custodial interrogations, proportionality review, adequate representation, and exempting those with severe mental illness.

"what could be more important than perfecting laws and policies to ensure fairness and equity in the application of capital punishment?"

"Reforming the system does not equate to being soft on crime. It does not equate to harboring sympathy for criminals or excusing unforgivable behavior." Murderers must be held accountable. However, the reality of our system is one that is inefficient (over half of Tennessee death sentences have been overturned), lengthy (the average time spent on death row is over 10 years), and costly.

"In the meantime, there can never be enough caution in the application of the ultimate penalty." Sadly, Steve Henley is scheduled to be executed on February 4th amidst myriad issues plaguing his case. Visit Steve Henley's new website by CLICKING HERE.


"More than half of the 184 persons sentenced to death in Tennessee since capital punishment was restored in 1977 have had their sentences set aside. Convicts on death row spend an average of 10 years there. One has managed to delay his execution since 1978. Twenty-six men have spent 20 years or more fighting the ultimate punishment. Four have been executed. One inhabitant recently died there with no help from the state."

The article discusses at length the work of the study committee and its attempts to reform a broken system. The new political landscape and the political risk of endorsing death penalty reform cast a shadow on the excellent work of the committee and the need to fix this broken system.

The case of Gary Cone which came out of Memphis is a harbinger of things to come. There will be more sentences reversed, more Supreme Court appearances, and more resources wasted on a policy that does not address the most critical issues of justice: fairness and equality.

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