Thursday, June 07, 2007


General Assembly Calls for Study of Death Penalty

TCASK Press Release:

Bi-partisan Legislation Passes Overwhelmingly

Nashville: Today the House of Representatives passed legislation creating a study commission to examine Tennessee’s death penalty system, which opponents have long held to be deeply flawed. The legislation, which unanimously passed the Senate on May 24th, was approved in the House by a vote of 79-14 with 2 members present but not voting. The legislation was introduced by Senator Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) and Representative Rob Briley (D-Nashville) in the House. The House version of the bill was co-sponsored by members of both perties from across the state.

“Today, the Tennessee General Assembly took a stand on the side of justice and fairness,” said Stacy Rector, Executive Director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, one of the organizations supporting the legislation. “Tennessee’s death penalty system is dangerously broken, and the legislature should be commended for acknowledging these flaws and taking steps to fix them.”

Several months ago, the American Bar Association released an assessment of Tennessee’s capital punishment system which found that the state was in full compliance with only 7 of the 93 benchmarks put forward to guarantee a fair functioning of the death penalty. Tennessee was found to sentence people to death in a biased manner along racial, economic, and geographic lines, and to sentence people with severe mental illness to death. Even more frighteningly, the state was found to have inadequate avenues for addressing questions of factual innocence of death row inmates.

“Tennessee has a death row of over 100 individuals,” said Rector, “and the largest legal organization in the country has said that we do not even have the proper mechanisms in place to guarantee that we do not execute an innocent person. Tennesseans deserve a system we can trust, and our current system doesn’t meet that standard.”

The study commission will consist of representatives of the House, Senate, Governor, attorneys on both sides of the process, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and victims’ advocates. The study will last one year from the appointment of the commission.

“Tennessee’s death penalty is riddled with flaws, from economic, racial, and geographic disparities in death sentencing to the real threat of executing an innocent person” said Rector. “This study is an essential step in ensuring that true justice prevails in our justice system.”
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Comments :
So this means what?
This means that the state legislature has taken notice that there are serious problems in Tennessee's death penalty system that need to be addressed. This is our first real legislative step toward addressing the public policy disaster that is Tennessee's death penalty system.
So..the victims families get more years of dealing with hit and miss alleys of justice?
Um... I think it's a process, and the victims' families must be involved in the process or otherwise they will automatically block it. But we must be more forceful, positive, and clear in what we do. Maybe we can bring the families along. That, I think, is what the organizing is about.
Thanks, Peggy, for your thoughtful comments. We have to keep the needs of murder victims' families in our minds and hearts as we debate this issue, but anyone who says that Tennessee's death penalty (with 3 executions in 47 years) is serving the families of murder victims is living in a fantasy world. Not to mention all the families that do not support the death penalty for the murder of their loved ones. The study commission that the general assembly has put into place includes representatives of victims to ensure that this vital perspective is heard.

Maybe our anonymous friend should read the legislation they are criticizing before commenting?
I am torn on this issue. I have always 'thought that I believed in the DP until I was researching the topic for a essay paper. The only problem that I see with abolishing the DP is that; laws change, and 'life without parole' doesn't necessarily mean what it acually says, 'life without parole.'
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