10 things you should know About the death penalty in Tennessee

Report
10 THINGS
YOU SHOULD
KNOW ABOUT
THE DEATH
PENALTY
#1
THERE ARE NO
RICH PEOPLE
ON DEATH ROW
- Approximately 85-90% of people on death row were
financially unable to hire attorneys to represent them at trial.
(TADP)
- They are assigned public defenders who typically have
much higher caseloads and fewer resources than private
law firms.
- In Shelby County, where 1/3 of death penalty convictions
arise, public defenders have caseloads that are 3 to 4
times larger than the national average.
- In 2012, Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush
argued that his office had been underfunded by $28.4
million for the past 20 years, due to calculation errors
(Memphis Commercial Appeal).
- In December 2013, the Nashville Public Defender’s office
reported that it was unable to take on a new death penalty
case due to chronic underfunding and understaffing
(TBA).
CONTEXT:
GIDEON V WAINWRIGHT
- The Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright (1963),
ruled that “lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not
luxuries,” and that the state is required to provide legal
representation for those who cannot afford to hire their
own.
- Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black added in 1964:
“There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a
man gets depends on the amount of money he has.”
- If Tennessee’s public defenders are overworked and
underfunded, what chance do poor people have of equal
justice?
#2
THERE ARE
RACIAL BIASES
IN THE SYSTEM
- A 2007 study of capital sentencing in Tennessee from
1981 to 2000 found that defendants with white victims
were 4.75 times more likely to receive the death
penalty than defendants with black victims (ABA
report, p 284).
- Even when other aggravating factors were present,
such as multiple victims or multiple felony convictions,
defendants with white victims were 3.15 times more
likely to receive the death penalty than defendants
with black victims (ABA report, p 284).
- More than 1 in 4 black inmates condemned to death
in Tennessee from 1977 to 2001 were sentenced by
all-white juries (15 out of 52 inmates, or 29%;
Amnesty, p 40).
- African Americans make up 43% of Tennessee’s death
row population but only 17% of its total population.
FOCUS: JURY SELECTION
• A 2010 study by the Equal Justice Initiative showed that jury
selection procedures had been manipulated in Tennessee, as
well as in other states, to eliminate black jurors without just
cause (EJI Report). They cite two cases from Tennessee in
detail:
• “In the 2007 case of State v. Hill, the prosecutor struck all
but one African American, leaving a black man to be tried
by a nearly all-white jury. The prosecutor claimed he struck
one African-American man because he was “not very
bright” and “went on some diatribe” during voir dire. The
appellate court found no such “diatribe” in the record, but
still upheld the case.”
• “In a similarly disturbing case from 2006, State v. Tyler, the
prosecutor struck only African Americans, and both the trial
and appellate courts accepted his explanation that he
struck one black juror for being “tentative and timid” and
another for wearing a large hat and sunglasses.”
#3
THERE IS TOO
LITTLE OVERSIGHT
& ACCOUNTABILITY
FOR JUDGES AND
LAWYERS
AMERICAN BAR
ASSOCIATION REPORT (2007)
The ABA’s Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment Report (2007) found that
the TN death penalty system falls short on 10 key points, including the
following procedural issues:
-
Inadequate Procedures to Address Innocence Claims (including a failure
to preserve DNA evidence in the post-conviction phase of capital trials)
-
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
The report makes 14 recommendations to address these issues, but we need
a follow-up report to assess whether the state has taken the necessary steps
to ensure that everyone is granted a fair trial, especially when facing the
irreversible punishment of death.
FOCUS: SHELBY COUNTY
•
Shelby County ranks #13 across the US for the highest number of death
penalty convictions (DPIC)
•
In Shelby County, prosecutors have sent three times as many people to
death row as prosecutors in any other county in the state (USA Today).
•
Homicide rates are typically high in Shelby County (an average of 31% of
all homicides in the state over the past ten years). But death penalty
convictions are even higher (39% of current prisoners on death row are
from Shelby County).
•
In December 2013, Shelby County prosecutor Thomas Henderson was
publically reprimanded by the TN Supreme Court for hiding exculpatory
evidence in Michael Rimmer’s murder trial (Memphis Flyer). Rimmer’s
conviction was overturned in 2013, but he is still sitting on death row
pending an appeal from the state.
•
Henderson is also facing a complaint to the state bar for “deliberate
misconduct” (The Open File). But the District Attorney’s office is not
planning any disciplinary action against Henderson, in spite of these
issues (Memphis Flyer).
•
Another Shelby County prosecutor, Jerry Harris, was found to have
withheld evidence in Timothy McKinney’s murder trial (The Nation).
Henderson was also involved in prosecuting this case. McKinney’s
conviction was overturned in 2013 and he was released on an Alford plea
after 11 years on death row (Democracy Now).
BUT IT’S NOT JUST SHELBY
COUNTY!
•
•
Since 1977, 41 death sentences or capital
convictions in Tennessee have been vacated or
reversed on grounds of ineffective assistance of
counsel. This represents more than 20% of
Tennessee death cases. If we include other
problems in addition to ineffective assistance of
counsel, courts have found reversible error in well
over half of all Tennessee death cases.
Federal judge Gilbert Merritt stated in 2009 that
prosecutorial misconduct (such as withholding
exculpatory evidence) poses the greatest threat to
justice and Rule of Law in death penalty cases,
and that it played a role in 7 of the 8 cases from
Tennessee that he reviewed in his years on the
bench (TN Law Review).
#4
INNOCENT
PEOPLE
HAVE BEEN
SENTENCED TO
DEATH IN TN
NDUME OLATUSHANI:
20 YEARS ON DEATH ROW FOR A
CRIME HE DID NOT COMMIT
OTHER WRONGFUL DEATH
PENALTY CONVICTIONS IN
TENNESSEE
• Michael L. McCormick was exonerated in 2007, after 16
years on death row
• Paul House was exonerated in 2009, after 22 years on
death row
• Gussie Vann was exonerated in 2011, after 17 years on
death row
• Michael Rimmer’s conviction was overturned in October
2012 after 14 years, but he has still not been released
from death row.
#5
DEATH
SENTENCES ARE
MORE
EXPENSIVE THAN
LIFE SENTENCES
DEATH AND TAXES
-
According to a 2004 study by the Tennessee Comptroller of the
Treasury, death penalty trials in TN cost an average of 48
percent more than the cost of trials in which prosecutors seek
life imprisonment.
-
In North Carolina, each execution costs $2.16 million more
than the cost of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment.
-
In Kansas, capital cases are 70% more expensive than
comparable non-capital cases, including the costs of
incarceration.
-
In Florida, the death penalty costs $51 million a year more
than what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with
life in prison without parole.
-
In Maryland, an average death penalty case resulting in a
death sentence cost approximately $3 million. Maryland
abolished the death penalty last year.
For more information on costs, see the TADP website.
#6
THE DEATH
PENALTY IS
NOT AN
EFFECTIVE
DETERRENT
THE MYTH OF DETERRANCE
-
88% of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death
penalty acts as a greater deterrent to homicide than long term
imprisonment. (Radelet and Lacock, 2009).
-
The murder rate in death penalty states is consistently higher than
the murder rate in non-death penalty states (empirical research by
Death Penalty Information Center).
-
For this and other reasons, the American Society of Criminology
takes a strong stand against capital punishment:
• "Be it resolved that because social science research has
demonstrated the death penalty to be racist in application and
social science research has found no consistent evidence of
crime deterrence through execution, The American Society of
Criminology publicly condemns this form of punishment, and
urges its members to use their professional skills in legislatures
and courts to seek a speedy abolition of this form of
punishment."
#7
EXECUTIONS
CREATE MORE
VICTIMS
THE MYTH OF CLOSURE
• Many supporters of the death penalty argue that execution
helps the family members of murder victims find closure for
their grief.
• And yet, some family members have found this to be false.
Not only does execution fail to address the pain of their loss,
but it may even compound their emotional trauma by expecting
families to “move on” rather than engaging in a life-long
process of healing and memory work.
• The national organization, Murder Victims’ Families for Human
Rights, frames the death penalty as “both a victims’ issue
and a human rights issue.” They support a policy of
“Prevention, Not Execution” to address the grievous harm of
murder and to stop the cycle of violence. http://www.mvfhr.org
• Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty have
also argued that the death penalty fails victims’ families.
http://conservativesconcerned.org/
STATEMENT BY NASHVILLE RESIDENT
CLIFFORD O’SULLIVAN, WHOSE MOTHER
WAS MURDERED WHEN HE WAS A CHILD
“There is not a life or a limb in this world that can
replace the ones I have lost. My mother’s sight was
sacred and, even if what I desired was an eye for an
eye, I know I could never hope for more than 20/20
vision. Despite its extraordinary capacity for bias, I
have doubts, untempered by contradiction, that the
criminal-justice system is sensitive enough to
appreciate the subtle qualities that endear one person
to another. My mother had green eyes, one of which
was lazy. Her murder’s eyes are blue. If I allow this
cycle to continue, what color will my justice be?”
COOKSVILLE’S HECTOR BLACK, ON THE
MURDER OF HIS DAUGHTER AND HIS
OPPOSITION TO THE DEATH PENALTY
[In the trial for his daughter’s murder,]
Black read a statement in court
saying, "I don't hate you, Ivan
Simpson, but I hate with all my soul
what you did to my daughter."
Black looked into Simpson's eyes.
"The tears were streaming down his
cheeks," Black says. Before he was
led away, Simpson apologized twice
for "the pain that I've caused," Black
says.
Black says he couldn't sleep that night
"because I really felt as though a
tremendous weight had been lifted
from me ... and that I had forgiven
him.”
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?sto
ryId=18791726
TRAUMATIC EFFECTS ON THE
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY OF
EXECUTED PRISONERS
• Prisoners on death row have children, parents,
siblings, spouses, and friends. When a prisoner is
executed, these people suffer an irreplaceable loss,
too.
• Dr. Ann Charvat of Nashville explains: “Executions
cause a breach in trust between citizens and
authority. Punishment that exceeds the need to
control the actions of the criminal can damage our
ability to bond with society, and thus prevent future
crime.” Dr. Charvat is a sociologist and has worked
as the executive director of Reconciliation, Inc.,
which supports family members of people in prison.
#8
MANY
CONSERVATIVES
AGREE THAT THE
SYSTEM DOES
NOT WORK.
Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is a network of
political and social conservatives who question the alignment of
capital punishment with conservative principles and values. They
highlight several key issues:
• Some of us believe that small government and the death
penalty don’t go together, especially when we compare the
high costs of capital punishment to life without possibility of
release.
• Some of us don’t trust the state to get it right. We already know
that some innocent people have been sentenced to death, and
for others it may already be too late.
• Some of us are disturbed by the roller coaster for family
members of murder victims, or wonder why we’re investing so
much in a system that doesn’t keep us any safer than the
alternatives.
• Some of us believe that the death penalty contradicts our
values about protecting life.
Marc Hyden in the Times Free Press:
“I am a law-and-order Republican who believes we need be tough
on crime, but also smart on crime. No one in our growing network
of conservatives concerned about the death penalty is interested
in coddling criminals. However, as we can plainly see, the death
penalty in Tennessee, as well as the rest of America, is neither
swift nor sure.”
Drew Johnson in the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
“The truth is government is not perfect, far from it, and the death
penalty runs a dangerously high probability of killing innocent
people, siphons billions of dollars from the public, and gives the
government power it cannot be trusted to carry out fairly…
“It’s time that conservative Tennesseans begin to look at the death
penalty to consider whether it’s consistent with our view of the role
of government and decide if retribution and revenge is worth
sacrificing our principles, freedoms, and liberties.”
#9
TENNESSEE DOES
NOT CURRENTLY
HAVE LEGAL
ACCESS TO
APPROVED
EXECUTION DRUGS
LETHAL INJECTION AND ITS
DISCONTENTS
• In 2011, Tennessee and several other states had to turn
over their supplies of sodium thiopental, one of the drugs
in the three-drug execution protocol, because of the way
it was acquired (New York Times).
• A lawsuit was brought against the FDA for allowing the
drug to be imported by state corrections departments
without proper inspection and approval
(Death Penalty Info).
• In 2013, Tennessee switched from a three-drug protocol
(involving sodium thiopental) to a new one-drug protocol
(pentobarbital). But the European manufacturers of the
drugs have banned their use for state execution
(The Tennessean).
• Last year, Tennessee legislators passed a law that allows
compounding pharmacies to mix drugs without a
prescription (NPR). This law would permit the state to
order execution drugs directly from a compounding
pharmacy in Tennessee, bypassing EU trade restrictions.
• In April 2013, Tennessee legislators amended a law
guaranteeing confidentiality to any “person or entity
involved in the procurement or provision of chemicals,
equipment, supplies and other items for use in carrying
out a sentence of death” (TCA Section 10-7-504(h)(1)).
• This means that a compounding pharmacy in Tennessee
could accept a contract to produce execution
drugs without disclosing its name to the public.
• Why are we suddenly rushing to execute 10 people
in TN? And why all the secrecy?
#10
TENNESSEE
HAS A
STRONG
ABOLITIONIST
HISTORY
TN’S ABOLITIONIST LEGACY
•
Tennessee was the only former Confederate
state to abolish capital punishment (from
1915 to 1919).
•
In 1965, Governor Clement granted clemency
to everyone on death row, after a death
penalty abolition bill was defeated by one vote.
•
Tennessee was the last state in the South to
resume executions after capital punishment
was suspended across the US from 19721976.
•
We have executed 6 people since 1976. Texas
has executed over 500 in the same time
THESE 10 POINTS ARE
IMPORTANT.
BUT YOU NEED TO
KNOW THAT DEATH
ROW IS A REAL PLACE,
NOT FAR FROM
WHERE YOU LIVE.
THIS IS TENNESSEE’S DEATH ROW UNIT
AT RIVERBEND MAXIMUM
SECURITY INSTITUTION (RMSI)
JUST A 15 MINUTE DRIVE FROM
DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE
REAL PEOPLE
LIVE ON DEATH
ROW – AND DIE
THERE.
PEOPLE ON DEATH ROW
CREATE ART…
THEY WRITE BOOKS…
Available at East Side
Story Bookstore and
on Amazon.com
THEY SING…
http://rethinkingprisons.wor
dpress.com/art-fromtennessees-deathrow/music-from-death-row/
AND THEY HAVE FAMILIES
WHO LOVE THEM
We asked men on death row to name the ten
issues that concern them most, the first thing
they said was:
“We need to find a way of
keeping kids out of the
prison system.”
TOGETHER,
WE CAN
MAKE A
DIFFERENCE
TAKE ACTION TO STOP
EXECUTIONS IN TENNESSEE
• Sign and share this open letter calling for a moratorium
on the death penalty in TN:tnsocialjustice.wordpress.com
• Sign these online clemency petitions for prisoners on
death row:
• Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman: http://www.abu-ali.org/
• Olen Hutchison: http://www.change.org/petitions/equaljustice-for-olen-hutchison
• Join Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
(TADP) at http://www.tennesseedeathpenalty.org/
• Attend the TADP Student Conference on the death
penalty on Feb. 22, 2014 at TSU (see the TADP website
for more details)
BUILD COMMUNITY WITH
PEOPLE ON DEATH ROW
• Follow the REACH Coalition blog:
www.reachcoalition.wordpress.com
• Send a postcard to death row (contact
[email protected])
• Become a penpal of someone on death row (contact
[email protected])
• Volunteer to visit someone on death row (contact Joe
Ingle at [email protected])
• Sign a Declaration of Life form:
http://www.quaker.org/declaration-of-life.html
CONNECT THE DOTS
• Share what you have learned about the death penalty
with your friends, family, and colleagues
• Host a presentation on the death penalty at your
educational institution, church, or community group.
Contact Stacy Rector at
[email protected] or Lisa Guenther at
[email protected] for support materials
• The death penalty is part of a larger pattern of mass
incarceration and harsh punishment
• Join the Vanderbilt Prison Project:
[email protected]
• Contact Janet Wolf of the Children’s Defense Fund
campaign to stop the School to Prison Pipeline
at [email protected]
PRESENTATION BY
TENNESSEE
STUDENTS AND
EDUCATORS FOR
SOCIAL JUSTICE

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