Saturday, February 3, 2007

Bredesen’s Death Penalty Order and TCASK’s Response

Posted By on Sat, Feb 3, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Governor Phil Bredesen’s executive order putting a halt to executions for 90 days gives a reprieve to four inmates on death row but is not likely to end protests over capital punishment.

On Thursday, Bredesen, a supporter of capital punishment, said problems with the current written procedures in cases of lethal injection “raise concerns that they are not adequate to preclude mistakes in the future.”

He added that there were no problems with two executions carried out in this decade, including the death by lethal injection of Sedley Alley in a Shelby County case. He said they were carried out “constitutionally and appropriately.”

“There did not appear to be any difficulties with those executions,” he said.

Bredesen granted reprieves until May 2nd to four death-row inmates scheduled to be executed in the next 90 days: Michael Joe Boyd, Edward Jerome Harbison, Daryl Keith Holton, and Pervis T. Payne.

Bredesen ordered the commissioner of corrections to review all death penalty protocols including written procedures and the use of scientific and medical experts. The order applies to executions by lethal injection or electrocution. Both of the most recent Tennessee executions were by lethal injection.

On Friday, the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing (TCASK) said “Tennessee’s death penalty system suffers from a number of problems and deficiencies well beyond the scope of the governor’s expressed concerns.”

TCASK executive director said the system “unfairly targets the poor, racial minorities, and people with mental illness. We can’t even trust our system to always sentence those truly guilty of murder.”

Last year TCASK rallied to the defense of Alley, who was executed for the brutal rape and murder of a woman who was jogging in Millington in 1985.

Capital punishment opponents include those who assert the innocence or possible innocence of death-row prisoners as well as people who think state killing is wrong under any circumstances. Bredesen’s order is not likely to satisfy the first group and certainly not the second. — John Branston

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