Today we are mourning the death of Justice A.A. Birch, Jr., the first African-American elected to a Nashville judgeship during the era of Metro government and the first to lead the Tennessee Supreme Court. Attorney David Ewing aptly referred to Birch as “Tennessee’s Thurgood Marshall.”
We, at TADP, particularly appreciated Justice Birch’s deep concerns over the death penalty system in Tennessee. In dissenting opinions, Birch wrote in several death penalty appeals about his concerns over the method used by the court to compare capital cases. Birch consistently declined to uphold executions in death penalty cases because Tennessee lacks meaningful “proportionality review” of whether death sentences are handed down in a fair and consistent manner across the state.
In November 2010, Justice Birch served on a panel at Nashville’s First Amendment Center with a diverse group of participants (see photo above) discussing the death penalty. On that panel, he again raised his concerns about ongoing problems with the process.
TADP is deeply grateful for the life of A.A. Birch and for his commitment to equal access to justice for every citizen of our state. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
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