Though much attention is currently focused on the case of Gaile Owens, whose execution date in set for September 28, 2010, the state of Tennessee is seeking to set execution dates for at least two other inmates in 2010.
The Tennessee Attorney General has requested an execution date be set for Stephen West, convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of Wanda Romines and her daughter, Shelia, in Union County in 1986. West was also found guilty of two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count each of aggravated rape and larceny. West’s defense team argued that he was present when the murders occurred but that a 17 year old co-worker–a classmate of Shelia’s–actually committed the crimes. West came within hours of execution in 2001 when he refused to file federal appeals but later changed his mind and signed the papers requesting a stay.
The Attorney General has also requested an execution date be set for Billy Irick, convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he had been baby-sitting. Irick’s attorneys have asked the Tennessee Supreme Court not to set an execution date because of Irick’s long-standing mental illness, an illness whose symptoms were evident prior to the murder, rendering him incompetent to be executed. Irick has been granted an extension to respond to the state’s request that he be executed.
TADP will provide more information on these cases on our website in the next weeks. Please check under the “Cases” heading to learn more.
The state of Tennessee did not resume executions until the year 2000 after 40 years with not a single execution. Now, as the death penalty is losing favor nationally with two states having abolished it in 2007 and 2009 and others making strides towards abolition, Tennessee is moving toward more executions.
With our state budget stretched to the limit and with all the well-known problems concerning fairness and accuracy in the application and administration of the death penalty, isn’t it time that we as a state shift our priorities from seeking executions for those who are already incarcerated and who will remain incarcerated to spending our resources and energy on effective measures that actually prevent violent crime like mental health care, drug treatment, education, and additional resources for law enforcement?
How can we justify slashing funding for preventative programs, particularly for at-risk children and youth, and then spend untold millions to execute those same children and youth–now adults–once they commit a violent crime? It is time to focus not on being on “tough” on crime but on being “smart” on crime. All of us need to act to tell our lawmakers that executing these individuals no matter how heinous their actions, does not make us any one safer nor does it serve us as a state.
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