Newspaper article News Sentinel

Death Penalty Process in Tennessee Is a Farce

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Death Penalty Process in Tennessee Is a Farce

Article excerpt

Are death sentences handed out only when the public is shocked by a heinous crime that gets a lot of media attention? Do we have shifting standards on who is a target for the death penalty?

The last three of Tennessee's death row inmates to die, died of old age. On death row, being in your 60s is old when you've spent 20 or 30 years sitting around letting your arteries harden. The official cause of death is natural causes. Death row lawyers need to sue to see if hardening arteries, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are constitutionally allowed forms of execution. It seems to be only way the death penalty can be administered these days.

The latest issue before the state Supreme Court is deciding which "cocktail" for killing the condemned is constitutional. Hey, what do I know? People die of heroin overdoses every day, but we can't find a chemical cocktail that can constitutionally end a life? Are we afraid they'll get high on their way to hell?

Why do we continue to pretend we have a death penalty? We keep inmates on death row for 20 or 30 years while we pay extra to house them, pay for lawyers to defend them and give them medical care until they kick off. Create a Super Max, make it life without parole and forget about it.

We know the death penalty is applied unequally depending on the race of the victim and the brutality of the death. We also know that DNA evidence has cleared over 150 death row inmates nationwide who were convicted largely on faulty eyewitness testimony.

I believe that the death penalty is constitutional. I believe that if the populace demands of the Legislature that the death penalty be a form of punishment, then the Legislature has a duty to follow the will of the people. But I hope the people come to the conclusion that it's not a good idea. Sentences are arbitrary. …

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