The Tennessean has recently published two OpEd's dealing with capital punishment. First, "It's time for Tennessee to resume executions," by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.
For years, Tennessee’s death penalty has been all but discarded and ignored. When Robert Glen Coe was executed by lethal injection on April 19, 2000, it was Tennessee’s first execution in nearly 40 years. Only five individuals, the last being in 2009, have been executed since then. Currently, 79 people await execution on Tennessee’s death row.
After years of controversy over the drugs used in Tennessee’s lethal injection procedure, Tennessee is back on track. Two executions have been scheduled, and a full 10 are awaiting scheduling. While we are all God’s children and no one should wish for the death of another, from a policy perspective, the return of the death penalty to Tennessee is a good thing.
The Tennessean later published, "Death penalty isn't fair, efficient or effective," by W. Scott Jamieson, a retired business executive and volunteer prison chaplain.
As a former corporate executive and now volunteer prison chaplain, I believe that public and private systems should be efficient, effective and fair. Because of this, I have deep concerns about Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s recent op-ed on resuming executions in Tennessee.
The most alarming assertion the piece contained was the idea that the death penalty is fair. First, that DNA has “thankfully vindicated those wrongfully convicted” is accepting the faultiness of only a part of the system. What is important to understand is that of the 143 people who have been released from death row because of system mistakes, only 18 of them were freed because of DNA evidence. That means that some future convictions are apt to rely on the same kind of faulty evidence and implicated testimonies that led to the release of these other 125 people.
In 1985, Ndume Olatushani, an African-American, was convicted of murdering a white man in Memphis. In 2012, after decades of challenge, that conviction was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court citing falsified and suppressed evidence, along with the use of compromised “eyewitnesses” by the state. For 27 years a system that some argue is fair threatened the life of a wrongfully convicted man, cost the state millions of dollars and gave the victim’s family a false sense of justice. Had the system been as swift as Mr. Ramsey would like, Mr. Olatushani would likely be dead. So, while the DNA argument is often positioned as the insurance that justice-minded people seek, it is critical to understand that most death penalty convictions do not rely upon that science.
Earlier coverage from Tennessee begins at the link.