In today’s Tennessee Voices section of the Tennessean, editorials concerning the recommendations of the Tennessee Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty are featured. I have an opinion piece included, as does Verna Wyatt, Director of You Have the Power, a victims’ advocacy group in Tennessee.
Verna charges that the Committee was biased from its inception. She quotes a TCASK newsletter from 2007 celebrating that TCASK, along with our legislative partners, successfully advocated for the passage of the study legislation and implies that our work to ensure a study means that the Committee was biased. Is it any real surprise that TCASK would advocate for a study committee on the death penalty given how broken it is?
As far as the make-up of the Committee, Wyatt does not mention that at least three of the four legislators who served on the Committee are on the record as pro-death penalty. Nevermind that Charles Strobel’s own mother was murdered here in Nashville and that he served on the committee as a representative of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, a victims advocacy organization. Furthermore, legislation that Wyatt herself proposed concerning realistic time limits on post-conviction appeals was recommended by the Committee. Does she feel that legislation is also biased?
I find it unfortunate that Wyatt references no research or testimony that the Committee heard over the 14 months it met. Instead, she tries to undermine the Committee’s work by questioning the motives of the people involved. But, not surprisingly, such an approach is often taken by those who have no substantive evidence to support their position which, in this case, is the fairness and accuracy of Tennessee’s death penalty. All that remains is accusation.
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