Ask the Governor to Veto the Bill to Bring Back the Electric Chair!

If you are opposed to bringing back the electric chair in Tennessee, please call the Governor’s office at (615) 741-2001 TODAY and leave a message asking Gov. Haslam to veto HB 2476 / SB 2580.

This bill would make the electric chair the default method of execution if lethal injection drugs are unavailable for any reason. A last-minute amendment to the bill would make this legislation retroactive, which means that we could face an execution by electrocution as early as October 7!

Today is the last day for the governor to sign the bill, abstain from signing (in which case it will still become law, since it passed in the House and Senate), or to veto the bill.

Many lawyers agree that it would be unconstitutional to make the legislation retroactive.  This is our chance to encourage Governor Haslam to do the right thing, and to veto the bill now in order to avoid long and costly litigation later.

If you are on facebook, you can follow this action at https://www.facebook.com/events/726917673997135/  Please post a message on the facebook page after you call!

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Question for Gov. Haslam: Do you think the death penalty system in TN needs to be overhauled?

Governor Haslam, Paulo Martinez has a question in response to your recent statement on Tennessee’s death penalty:

Do you think the death penalty system in Tennessee needs to be overhauled?

The American Bar Association does.  Their 2007 Death Penalty Assessment Report on Tennessee identified 10 key areas for reform:

  • Inadequate Procedures to Address Innocence Claims (including a failure to preserve DNA evidence in the post-conviction phase of capital trials)
  • Excessive Caseloads of Defense Counsel
  • Inadequate Access to Experts and Investigators
  • Inadequate Qualification and Performance Standards for Defense Counsel
  • Lack of Meaningful Proportionality Review (between cases in which a death sentence or a life sentence is imposed for similar crimes)
  • Lack of Transparency in the Clemency Process
  • Significant Capital Juror Confusion
  • Racial Disparities in Tennessee’s Capital Sentencing
  • Geographical Disparities in Tennessee’s Capital Sentencing
  • Death Sentences Imposed on People with Severe Mental Disability

The report makes 14 recommendations to address these issues.

How many of these recommendations have been implemented since 2007? 

How has your government worked to ensure fairness and transparency in capital cases?

We invite you to respond to these questions directly by clicking on “Leave a Comment,” or by sending an email to tnsocialjustice@gmail.com.

Questions for Gov. Haslam about Innocence and Compassion

Governor Haslam, Hector Black has a question and a comment in response to your recent statement on Tennessee’s death penalty:

Dear Gov.Haslam,

A heavy responsibility has been placed on your shoulders – the power of life or death. I am sure that is not easy.

1. Nationwide over 140 men have been found innocent and freed from death row based on DNA evidence, faulty trials, withheld evidence. Can you in good conscience send these men to death without being certain they are guilty?

2. Our daughter was murdered in Atlanta in 2012. With God’s help I got past my anger and hatred and saw him as a human being who had done a terrible thing. My wife and I forgave him and visited him in his Georgia prison. He is not the same person who killed. I now visit men on death row in Nashville. None of the men on death row are the same people who murdered (assuming that they are guilty). The death penalty is an act of revenge. As a person who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus, I am asked to love my enemies, to forgive seventy times seven, to show compassion.

Thanks you for your consideration of my letter.

Hector Black, Cookeville, TN

We invite you to respond to these questions directly by clicking on “Leave a Comment,” or by sending an email to tnsocialjustice@gmail.com.

Question for Gov. Haslam: Is every life sacred, even on death row?

Governor Haslam, Katye S. has posed a few questions in response to your recent statement on Tennessee’s death penalty:

Governor Haslam: you have said that you believe human life is sacred. Does that include all of human life?

You say that you are following the policy [of capital punishment] that has always been in place. What if that policy is wrong?

Do you really think the best response to death is more death?

We invite you to respond to these questions directly by clicking on “Leave a Comment,” or by sending an email to tnsocialjustice@gmail.com.

Question for Gov. Haslam: Will you listen to taxpayers who oppose the death penalty?

Governor Haslam, Mark McEntire has a question in response to your recent statement on Tennessee’s death penalty:

You seem to listen to those who say they do not want their tax money used to feed the poor or provide people with medical care. What do you have to say to those of us who don’t want our tax money used to kill people?

We invite you to respond to this post directly by clicking on “Leave a Comment,” or to respond by email to tnsocialjustice@gmail.com.

What would you ask Governor Bill Haslam about the TN Death Penalty?

Listen to this 21-second statement by Governor Haslam on Tennessee’s unprecedented drive to execute 10 people over a period of 19 months.

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We think there’s more to say on this issue!  What would you ask Governor Haslam about the death penalty in Tennessee?

Click on “Leave a Reply” to post your questions, or send them to tnsocialjustice@gmail.com!

Why Does Colin Dayan Support This Initiative?

Dr. Colin Dayan is Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University.  She is the author of The Law is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons (2011) and The Story of Cruel and Unusual (2007), as well as many other books, articles, and op-eds.

Dr. Dayan writes:

How cruel and unusual is the practice of humane and sanitized death? In Baze v. Rees (2008), the Supreme Court upheld Kentucky’s method of lethal injection. It rejected the claim that the effects of the 3-drug protocol qualified as cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment. Even though the paralyzing drug pancuronium bromide leaves an improperly sedated inmate unable to move or cry out, but conscious and in excruciating pain, the Court ruled that the procedure is more humane, more dignified than others. In other words, it is less disturbing to witnesses. 

The Tennessee Department of Correction has announced that only pentobarbital will be used to execute death row inmates despite a shortage of the drug.  In other words, our state will use the single-drug lethal injection method instead of the three-drug method it has used in the past. But since the drug is in short supply individual pharmacies can concoct recipes to make it, increasing the risk of an agonizing, degrading death.

The “painlessness” of lethal injection depends on an excessive saturation of the body with chemicals.  This “ethics of care” always remains what Sister Helen Prejean once called “an elaborate ruse.”  The familiar surround of a clinic, as I once wrote in “The Blue Room in Florence,” “offers the guarantee that this body-altering penetration has the prestige of a healing process.” But the odor of death cannot be redeemed.

The process of “humane” killing has unlimited resources at its disposal: to benumb, paralyze, and exterminate.  We remain the only country in the so-called “civilized” world that practices execution, though nineteen states do not have an enforceable death penalty statute. When will Tennessee join them and stop “tinkering with the machinery of death,” in the words of Justice Harry Blackmun?

To view the full list of signatories to our open letter to stop executions in Tennessee, click here.

If you are a student or educator in Tennessee, and you would like to add your signature to this open letter, click here.

If you are not student or educator in Tennessee, but you would like to support the open letter, please sign this petition.

And join us for a Death Penalty Teach-In on Monday, January 27 at 5:30pm in Vanderbilt’s Alumni Hall 201!

Why does Nicholas Logan support this initiative?

Nicholas Logan is an undergraduate student of philosophy at Vanderbilt University.  Nicholas writes:

Punishments like the death penalty and life-without-parole sentences attribute an essence to the offender: that they are permanently unworthy of being a part of our collective society.  In existentialist terms, these forms of punitive justice deny the possibility of an open future to someone who has committed a crime by denying their existential freedom to change.  If man is, in Jean-Paul Sartre’s words, “the being who hurls himself toward a future and who is conscious of imagining himself as being in the future,” then forms of punishment like permanent incarceration and state-sanctioned death, which deny such future-oriented freedom, are clearly not adequate responses to crime. Permanent incarceration involves entrusting the state and its representatives with endless dominion over the body and freedom of the prisoner. The death penalty denies a convicted criminal an opportunity to change or to make amends for what they have done.

But the harm of extreme punishment goes beyond the individual prisoner; it also affects the existential freedom of the public.  As Lewis Gordon outlines in his work, Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism, if man is constantly “in the making,” we act in bad faith whenever we attribute an essence or nature to someone because it denies one’s existential freedom.  When we wordlessly live under a legal system that sanctions the death penalty and life-without-parole prison sentences, we will a world in which it is okay to deny an open future to others and ourselves. Further, we allow ourselves to live under a type of power relationship in which we can deny our responsibility to not only determine what is ethical, but also how to respond to that which is said to be unethical.

To view the full list of signatories to our open letter to stop executions in Tennessee, click here.

If you are a student or educator in Tennessee, and you would like to add your signature to this open letter, click here.

If you are not student or educator in Tennessee, but you would like to support the open letter, please sign this petition.

Why does Richard Goode support this initiative?

Richard Goode is Professor of History at Lipscomb University and coordinator of the Lipscomb Initiative for Education (LIFE) program, which offers Lipscomb courses at Nashville area prisons and at Room in the Inn. He is the author, with Will Campbell, of And the Criminals with Him (2012)  and Crashing the Idols (2010).

Dr. Goode writes:

Over the last 35 years we’ve often made the death penalty one of our favorite, polarizing disputes. Candidates for elected office, for example, make capital punishment a campaign pledge, promising to get people what they’re due (retribution and/or revenge). Criminal Justice experts analyze it as a public policy (i.e., whether it effectively deters future offenses). Such polemics can impoverish our communities by masking the real costs of executions. When it comes to capital punishment, we’re not talking about some “issue.” A crime has shattered lives and community relations as they ought to be. No matter how severe and well-intentioned our punitive reprisal, however, we can neither erase the pain and loss, nor do some final just thing to delete the offense.

Community is found in our ongoing response to the offense, rather than on some once-for-all, ultimate payback inflicted on the offender. Insofar as both the victim and the offender are our siblings, our challenge is to live beyond retribution, and love beyond revenge. Our commitment is to restore right relationships after the horrendous offense. Toward that end, we’re not called to settle the score—as if our vengeful might could return life to some prelapsarian state. We’re called to be reconciled—to incarnate the reconciliation that has already restored right relationships.

To view the full list of signatories to our open letter to stop executions in Tennessee, click here.

If you are a student or educator in Tennessee, and you would like to add your signature to this open letter, click here.

If you are not student or educator in Tennessee, but you would like to support the open letter, please sign this petition.

 

Why Does Larry May Support This Initiative?

Larry May is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Law, and Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  He is the author of many books, including After War Ends (2012), Global Justice and Due Process (2011), and Genocide: A Normative Account (2010).

 Dr. May writes:

One can be opposed to the death penalty for many good moral reasons that are grounded in principle, such as the principle that the right to life must be respected, or that the state should never intentionally kill one of its own citizens.  But often today people express a different type of reason for why they are opposed to the death penalty, namely, a concern that the institutions responsible for the death penalty in America cannot be trusted to make sure that only those who deserve to die are the one’s who are executed.  This is a contingent objection to the death penalty in its current form and as it is currently administered and it is the position I also support. I don’t see the criminal justice institutions in the United States reforming themselves, or being reformed, sufficiently in the foreseeable future to make it likely that these institutions would guarantee that only those who deserved to die are the ones who are executed.

Specifically three facts are worth mention: 1) the current tendency for prosecutors to engage in wrongdoing so as to get a conviction and to thereby enhance their own prospects of attaining higher political office within their states [See Larry May, “Missouri’s Death Row Cases,” Journal of the Missouri Bar, March/April 2003, pp. 72-79];  2) the likelihood that the defense attorney representing the accused will not be as skilled, or have anything like the same resources, as those of the prosecutor;  and 3) the fact that prosecutors often react to certain kinds of killing in a visceral way, rather than in a reasoned way. Such facts have caused me and many others to lose faith in the promise that only those who deserve to die will be executed. And this is also a reason to have a moratorium on the administration of the death penalty.

To view the full list of signatories to our open letter to stop executions in Tennessee, click here.

If you are a student or educator in Tennessee, and you would like to add your signature to this open letter, click here.

If you are not student or educator in Tennessee, but you would like to support the open letter, please sign this petition.