At 11:30 a.m. this morning over 25 concerned Tennesseans convened in front of the office of Attorney General Bob Cooper to ask him to drop his appeal in the case of Paul House. The weather was frigid–thermometers read around 13 degrees, even colder with the wind chill–but as the Rev. Sonnye Dixon put it so eloquently in his opening prayer “God delivers us this cold weather to remind us of the cold hearts we need to warm up in this (AG’s) office.”
Rev. Stacy Rector (TCASK Executive Director) kicked off the rally with a stirring rendition of the events that have transpired around Paul House’s case. She reminded us that this case has already seen the halls of the 6th circuit court of appeals three times already. She then asked, kindly, to the Attorney General that we, as the state of Tennessee, admit that this time we were wrong. She wasn’t implicating the Attorney General for actions that took place decades ago, she was instead asking him to do the right thing now. There’s shouldn’t be winners and losers declared in this arena, only the resounding voice of justice. On an unrelated note, Peter Irons wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Tennessean yesterday. He was a bit tougher on the AG, read it HERE.
Following Rev. Rector and Rev. Dixon was Rep. Mike Turner (Old Hickory). I have not been in Tennessee for long, nor have I had the chance to interact with a substantial amount of Tennessee’s state legislators. However, Rep. Turner is someone I admire deeply. He might be a politician, but he isn’t political. He does what he knows is right and does not cease until the mission is accomplished. These are rare traits amongst politicians, or anyone for that matter. Rep. Turner appeared solemn as he delivered his concise remarks. It was as if he was in disbelief that he had to speak about Paul’s continued incarceration especially after receiving “the Christmas gift” that was Judge Mattice’s ruling. I was waiting for Rep. Turner to lay one into General Cooper and to be critical of this action. Instead, Rep. Turner like Rev. Rector employed the grace and understanding that it takes in situations like this. He stated, “I know Bob Cooper and he is a good man. This wasn’t a decision by him, but it was made by those behind him. If Bob wasn’t the Attorney General, he’d be down here with us, out in this cold.”
No rally is complete without music, and you know TCASK loves its music. We were so fortunate to have three excellent artists there, make that three excellent people. Julie Lee played with Bill Tennyson and they sung a beautiful hymn about Psalm 91.
Psalm 91: 5-10, “You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.”
Julie organized a “Free Paul House” concert in 2006 and continues to support the campaign with her beautiful music and energy. Michael Kelsh was the third artist and he sang a classic union song customized for Tennessee and Paul House. Stacy declared Michael to be the “official TCASK musician.” We can always count on Michael to provide us with his soulful voice and skillful guitar playing.
As a grassroots organization it is vital that we have rallies like today’s. It builds solidarity and bolsters the conviction of those present because there is no witness like a public one. I want to congratulate all those who came, but also to those who couldn’t make it, but have kept Paul, his mother Joyce, and all those mired in injustice in their thoughts. We couldn’t do this work without you. Paul won’t be freed without you. We won’t abolish the death penalty without you.
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