Today's Tennessean publishes the editorial, "Electric chair makes bad system worse."
Since Haslam signed the electrocution measure earlier this month, he and Cooper have sought to assure Tennesseans that they are on solid ground with the electric chair. And it’s true that the U.S. Supreme Court and appellate courts have not expressly struck down electrocutions as violating the Eighth Amendment.
Still, new death penalty challenges are being brought continually throughout the country. Florida had problems with electrocutions that did not go as planned. Highly publicized botched lethal injection executions have taken place in Oklahoma, Ohio and Georgia over the past several months. And then there are the revelations, occurring regularly, of men and women on death row found to be erroneously condemned. Of those, some have been exonerated through DNA evidence, others were found to have been framed and still others simply had incompetent legal representation.
Amid all of these problems with the justice system, it is disappointing that Gov. Haslam and the General Assembly have not learned that the death penalty solves nothing.
In Alabama, "Turning back the clock on capital punishment," is the Decatur Daily editorial.
That brings us back to the electric chair. Like Tennessee, Alabama still has one, although it hasn’t been used since 2002. Unlike his counterpart just to the north, Gov. Robert Bentley said he is against putting it back into regular service. Perhaps he has good reason, and a good memory.
Alabama’s electric chair, nicknamed “Yellow Mama,” has its own gruesome past. In 1983, John Louis Evans III became the first person executed in Alabama following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. The first jolt set off sparks and nearly caught his leg on fire, but it didn’t kill him. It took two more jolts and 14 minutes for doctors to finally pronounce Evans dead.
Capital punishment isn’t pretty, but as its supporters say, neither are the crimes that merit it.
Still, that hasn’t stopped most of the world from abolishing the death penalty, suspending it or limiting its use to punishment for wartime atrocities. When it comes to capital punishment, the United States is in the company of China, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
In Minnesota, which does not have capital punishment, the Mankato Free Press publishes, "Our View: Taking executions backward."
The latest wave of responses from death penalty states is to revert, or at least threaten to revert, to killing methods that had been discarded as overly brutal. Tennessee last week officially made electrocution an option once more. Wyoming and Utah are poised to bring back firing squads.
These moves may be posturing of a sort: Quit challenging lethal injection, or we’ll switch to something you find even more abhorrent.
Both sides of the capital punishment debate are well dug in. Death-penalty states won’t abandon the practice simply because their preferred execution method is squeezed; it’s equally unlikely that opponents of executions will drop their objections lest more barbaric methods be employed.
We’re pleased Minnesota doesn’t have the death penalty. We’d be even more pleased if the states that do would yield to the outside pressures that are making lethal injection increasingly less practical.
Tennessean columnist Frank Daniels III writes, "Our divided conscience struggles with executions."
The Tennessean also has additional reporting, "Haslam shares thinking on electrocution," by Chas Sisk.
Gov. Bill Haslam avoided stating his personal views about execution when Capitol Hill reporters questioned him last week about his decision to sign a bill expanding use of the electric chair. But he couldn't escape saying more when confronted Tuesday by the young women who attended the American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer Girls State conference in Nashville.
Responding to a high school student who pointedly described the death penalty as "inhumane" and an inefficient use of taxpayer money, Haslam conceded that moral and economic arguments could be made against capital punishment. But he said he respects voters' and lawmakers' decision to have the death penalty.
"A lot of us sitting here go, that sounds incredibly cruel and barbaric to say as a human you're going to take another's life," he said. "And that is a very valid, valid philosophical position to take. But you do have to remember that a lot of the crimes – almost all of the crimes -- that people are on death row for are horrific."
"Methodist demonstrators protest death penalty bill," is by Mignonne Bryant, also in the Tennessean.
About 50 Methodist leaders and congregation members gathered at Legislative Plaza today to protest the recent bill approved by Gov. Bill Haslam and state lawmakers to allow the execution of death row by electric chair when lethal injection chemicals are not available.
The Earlier coverage from Tennessee begins at the link.