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What Do China, Iran, Saudia Arabia, Somalia, the U.S., and Iraq Have in Common?

According to Amnesty International’s Global Report 2023, these nations carried out the most executions last year.

China is estimated to execute thousands of people annually but classifies the number as a state secret. We can safely assume then that China is the world’s leading executioner.

Excluding China, of the known number of executions in 2023, Iran came in first with at least 853 executions, accounting for 74% of the global total. Saudi Arabia placed second with 172 executions accounting for 15%. Somalia followed with at least 38 executions. The United States came in fourth at 24 executions, and Iraq carried out at least 16. 

The number of executions carried out by these nations and a handful of others, 1153, is the highest number of executions since 2015, but the spike can mostly be attributed to 48% rise in executions in Iran.

If the fact that the U.S. keeps company with nations that our government regularly condemns for human right violations and oppressive policies makes you uncomfortable, then good. It should. The U.S. position on the death penalty impugns our nation’s credibility, particularly as our government chastises others nations for their human rights records while continuing a policy that no other western, industrialized nation employs.

Now for some good news: Only 16 countries carried out executions in 2023. This represents the lowest number of countries executing on record. Even if the U.S. is among this number, it is encouraging that more nations are moving away from the death penalty. In fact, the parliaments of Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, and Zimbabwe all considered abolition bills last year.

Our nation can and must do better. It’s time to keep better company.

Read more of Amnesty’s report.

You Win Some…TADP’s Legislative Wrap-up

The legislative session in Tennessee has ended, and because of your support, more victims of violent crime in Tennessee will have access to the help that they need to heal.

The legislature overwhelmingly passed HB 1021/ SB 1416 sponsored by Chairman Clay Doggett (R) and Senator Paul Rose (R), expanding access to the Tennessee Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund for more victims of violence in Tennessee. This legislation will allow more Tennesseans who have experienced harm to access the support that they need to recover and to heal in the wake of a violent crime. This fund of last resort can assist with lost wages, funeral expenses, and counseling services.

Background and Impact

Over the last two years with the leadership of TADP Community Outreach Coordinator Rafiah Muhammad-McCormick, TADP has worked closely with victim advocates, including Mothers Over Murder, Tennessee Voices for Victims, You Have the Power, and Raphah Institute to address some of the challenges that keep survivors and surviving family members of murder victims from receiving assistance to aid in their recovery from violent crime. TADP is deeply grateful to all of these groups for their hard work and support.

When victims get the help they need, they are more likely to cooperate with law enforcement and less likely to be trapped in cycles of violence. This support is critical if we want to make Tennessee safer for everyone and end our reliance on a failed death penalty.

TADP is currently planning a statewide campaign with Mothers Over Murder to educate victims of violence about this fund, how to access it, and to learn what other obstacles need to be addressed to allow even more people to benefit. This campaign will empower the voices of those directly impacted by violence to educate the public and lawmakers alike that more punishment is not what victims need but instead they need more support to heal and more community-based investments to prevent violence in the first place, which is the real alternative to the death penalty.  

Other Legislation

Legislation to remove secrecy from the lethal injection protocol, sponsored by Senator Mark Pody (R) and Chairman Justin Lafferty (R) did not move this session, though Americans for Prosperity and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government championed the bill, along with TADP and Tennesseans for Capital Punishment Reform (TCPR). We will continue to push for transparency around lethal injection, particularly in light of a new report that demonstrates a “disproportionate number of botched executions involve Black individuals, underscoring the deep-seated biases that pervade the system and that state secrecy and cover-ups further compound the issue, with authorities concealing vital information about the execution process and the drugs used. Secrecy laws prevent transparency and allowing states to perpetuate the myth of humane executions while hiding the harsh realities from public scrutiny.”

Despite our best efforts to contain it, a bill to expand the death penalty for the non-lethal crime of child rape passed the legislature and is on its way to Governor Lee. TADP will now mount a campaign to ask Governor Lee to veto this misguided legislation.

Though we can all agree that this is a reprehensible crime, this legislation will only serve to make Tennessee’s kids less safe. The real motivation behind this bill is an attempt to overturn U.S. Supreme Court precedent that determined the death penalty should only be available as a punishment for murder.

If protecting kids was the priority, Tennessee lawmakers would have listened to the child service providers who continue to publicly share their concerns that this legislation will only chill the reporting of this crime since 90% of offenders are family or friends of the child. It will also trap children in decades of capital litigation that will only serve to re-traumatize them, particularly if they have to testify over and over again. At the same time, the state will spend millions of taxpayer dollars to litigate a test case with no certainty of a specific outcome. Tennessee lawmakers should instead be directing these resources to try to protect our children from the abuse in the first place and ensure survivors have access to mental health treatment and the proper support.

With your support, TADP will keep up this fight, working to end the death penalty, to prevent violence, and to support all those who are harmed–which will make us ALL safer.

Photo: TADP and TCPR staff at 2024 Justice Day on the Hill.

Happy Holidays from TADP

The holidays are upon us, and there is much to celebrate!

Because of your generosity, TADP has made great strides in limiting the death penalty’s scope while our state hasn’t carried out an execution since 2020! We are now at a crossroads with significant opportunities to further limit the death penalty and to create a new public safety model for Tennessee.

With your gift today, TADP will build upon our progress to create a safer and more just state for all of us without relying on a failed death penalty system to get us there.

TADP’s ongoing work has made it apparent to us that if Tennesseans truly want to embrace a culture that promotes life and public safety for all, we must not only focus on ending the death penalty but also on healing, crime prevention, and investing in trauma informed solutions to address violence. To reflect this expanded focus, TADP’s Board of Directors officially updated our mission statement to read: Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty works to honor life by abolishing the death penalty, preventing violence, and supporting those who experience harm.

TADP is strengthening relationships with important allies to fight the death penalty, educating the public and lawmakers alike about the failure of “tough on crime” policies, and promoting evidence-based solutions to prevent crime, to address harm, and to create a new narrative around public safety.

To that end, TADP Community Outreach Coordinator Rafiah Muhammad-McCormick will conduct a statewide campaign in 2024, in partnership with Mothers Over Murder, to educate victims of violence about how to access support from the Tennessee Criminal Compensation Fund while we advocate for legislative changes to make the fund more accessible to more Tennesseans. Research suggests that those who do harm were often once victims themselves, reinforcing our belief that better victims’ support can contribute to crime reduction.

Tennessee Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty Director Jasmine Woodson is partnering with conservative allies on violence prevention initiatives while lifting up the disconnect between the current death penalty system and the conservative values of fiscal responsibility, limited government, and pro-life policies to move conservatives away from the death penalty.

And, TADP will also continue to tell Tennesseans about the other failures of the death penalty system, including the endemic racism, the real risk of executing the innocent, and the human and financial costs of maintaining a broken system that does not make us safer and traps surviving family members of murder victims in a legal process for decades, making their healing reliant on what happens to those who have cause them harm.

We can do better. We must do better. And with your support, we will do better.

Thank you from all of us at TADP! Happy Holidays!!!

Celebrating the Life of TADP Board Member and Founder of Room in the Inn Charles Strobel

Our dear friend and longtime TADP board member, Charlie Strobel, died on Sunday morning. He was 80 years old.

I am still processing and will be for some time. Charlie has been my dear friend for over twenty years and has served on the TADP board since I became director 17 years ago. I honestly can’t imagine not having him around.

Charlie desperately wanted to end the death penalty and spent much of his time supporting TADP in that mission. He and his family were incredible witnesses to the “miracle of forgiveness,” as he called it, when his mother was murdered in Nashville, and they fought against the death penalty for the man who murdered her. He shared his story all over the state and in the short film about TADP’s work called To Honor Life.

If you have never watched this film, I encourage you to do so. The statistics are dated since the film is several years old now, but the stories are timeless and speak to the need to finally end the death penalty.

Over the years, Charlie was also active with Murder Victims Families for Human Rights and served on a legislative death penalty study committee in Tennessee. He did all of this in addition to his tireless work on behalf of the unhoused, as founder of Room in the Inn.

I was able to spend some good time with him over these past months and was actually with him on Friday for several hours. He was tired but still had that twinkle in his eye! All of Nashville is grieving, and well beyond Nashville, as Charlie was a light and always will be. He stood with those among us who are the most vulnerable…those who are poor, sick, and in prison. And he was a champion for the unhoused. I won’t call him a saint because that made him roll his eyes, but he was that to me and to so many of us.

We love you, Charlie, and we are all better people because we knew you and loved you.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.

When we end the death penalty in Tennessee, you will be one of the reasons why.

Rest in peace, sweet friend,

Stacy

Photo by Jeff Moles

Doomed to Repeat: The Legacy of Race in Tennessee’s Contemporary Death Penalty

During a committee meeting in the 2023 legislative session, a Tennessee Representative offered this amendment to a bill that would have allowed executions by firing squad: I was just wondering, could I put an amendment on that that would include hanging by a tree, also?”

A few weeks later, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to expel two Black legislators for demanding from the well that thousands of Tennesseans gathered at the Capitol be heard on gun violence in the wake of The Covenant School shooting.

Given this climate, the timing of a Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) report focusing on the legacy of race in Tennessee’s death penalty could not be better. The report entitled, Doomed to Repeat: The Legacy of Race in Tennessee’s Contemporary Death Penalty, explores the current capital punishment system in Tennessee through a historical lens, tracing the origins of the use of the death penalty to lynchings and other forms of racial violence directed at Black Tennesseans.

TADP is lifting up this report through op-eds, podcasts, statewide events, and social media, making the case that racism is so intrinsic to Tennessee’s capital punishment system that the only remedy is repeal of the death penalty.

Some key findings of the report include:

  • Historically, there were thirteen offenses for which Black people in Tennessee could receive the death penalty, compared to just two offenses for white citizens.

  • Historically, local officials were often complicit in lynchings and other forms of racial violence against Blacks in Tennessee.

  • Almost 40% of Tennessee homicide victims are white, but 74% of death sentences imposed in Tennessee since 1972 have involved white victims.

  • Shelby County is a death sentencing outlier in the state and nationally. Despite comprising just 13% of the state’s total population, Shelby is responsible for one-third of all death sentences in Tennessee and half of the current death row. Further, 60% of death sentences for Black defendants in the state have originated in Shelby County. Shelby County is also an outlier nationally. Compared to counties of a similar size (population between 750,000–1,000,000), Shelby County ranks third in the number of death sentences imposed.

  • The most likely outcome of a death sentence in Tennessee is reversal, commutation, or exoneration. Two of every three death sentences in the state from 1972 to 2021 have resulted in a reversal, commutation, or exoneration. The reversal rate in Shelby County, the state’s primary outlier county, is nearly 62%. These statistics point to the unreliability of the death penalty at both the state and county level in Tennessee.

  • In recent years, the state legislature has passed legislation that removes power from locally elected county prosecutors to handle various aspects of death penalty cases, allowing the unelected attorney general to take control of local issues.

  • Many historical issues related to race, including segregation and Black voter disenfranchisement, are still prevalent in Tennessee today. Remnants of Jim Crow and segregation persist in Tennessee. Memphis, for example, is highly segregated. A 2021 study found 17 of the city’s neighborhoods were at least 98% Black, and five were at least 90% white. Additionally, Tennessee has the highest proportion of disenfranchised Black residents in the United States, with more than 1 in 5 Black people unable to vote.

  • Homicides involving white victims in Tennessee are more likely to be solved than homicides involving Black victims. A review of unsolved Tennessee homicides from 2013–2021 found that 29% of homicides of Black victims in the state went unsolved, compared to 11% of homicides of white victims. The racial discrepancies in homicide clearing rates suggest that cases involving white victims are more likely to be prosecuted.

  • People on death row face legal barriers to seeking relief for jury discrimination in Tennessee because of the “reluctance by appellate judges to find racial bias when claims are presented.” A study on jury discrimination in the south conducted by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) suggested that, even when prosecutors used veiled race-based reasons to strike potential Black jurors, Tennessee’s appellate courts rarely reversed decisions. At the time of EJI’s study—and continuing for an additional six years—Tennessee was the only state studied whose appellate courts had never granted relief in a criminal case because of jury discrimination. The report attributed this anomaly to the failure of trial counsel to properly raise objections at trial and the “reluctance by appellate judges to find racial bias when claims are presented.”

  • The Department of Justice’s investigation into Shelby County’s juvenile justice system found that “the data show that in certain phases of the County’s juvenile justice system, race is—in and of itself—a significant contributing factor, even after factoring in legal variables.”

Listen to a podcast about the report.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition asking Governor Lee not to resume executions in Tennessee.

A Message from TADP’s Executive Director on The Covenant School Shooting and the Violence Epidemic

On a beautiful spring day one week ago, six people, including three children, were shot and killed at The Covenant School in Nashville. The shooter was also killed. Seven dead in 15 minutes.

As this nightmare was unfolding, I was serving on a panel at MTSU, joined by Sabrina-Butler Smith and Cynthia Vaughn. We had been invited to speak to two classes for Women’s History Month.

Sabrina, a woman of color, is one of only two women exonerated from death row in the country. As a teenager in Mississippi, she was convicted of killing her infant son and sentenced to die. Her wrongful conviction was based on false and misleading forensic evidence as well as prosecutorial misconduct. Sabrina endured six and a half years in prison, two years and nine months on death row, for a crime that never occurred. Her son, Walter, died of natural causes.

Cynthia Vaughn was a child when her mother, Connie, was murdered in Memphis. Her stepfather, Don Johnson, was convicted for her mother’s murder and sentenced to death. Cynthia’s life was turned upside down, and for most of her life, she wanted her stepfather to die.

A few years before his execution, she realized the anger that her unaddressed trauma had created was destroying her and hurting others. After visiting her stepfather on death row, she became convinced that there was nothing about his death that would heal her. She worked to stop his execution and now speaks about the additional trauma she experienced trapped in the legal system for thirty years while receiving little to no support from the state to assist with her healing.

Cynthia, Sabrina, and I finished our first presentation on Monday morning and went to grab an early lunch. After we sat down to eat, we got word of the shooting. I made some calls to get more information. The news was bad. We finished our meal as best we could and gathered ourselves for a second presentation to 50 students and a few faculty members.

What was there to say? We all sat silently for a minute or two, and then I spoke. “It has happened again.”

Sitting with Sabrina and Cynthia in a classroom full of young people staring back at us, I wanted to hit the rewind button and start the day over. I wanted to scream, vomit, and beat my fists against the wall. I wanted to run away.

I didn’t do any of those things. Instead, I took a deep, prayerful breath, and said, “Violence is never a solution to address our pain. It is, instead, a symptom of it. We cannot punish our way out of situations like this one.”

We cannot punish our way out of situations like this one.

We know that a variety of factors have led us to this deadly point. And we know that we are not helpless, though it may feel that way. There are steps to take to improve the situation, if we can find the collective will to take them.

Because the shooter is dead, we will not have the debate about how to punish the one who has inflicted the devastation. Such debates always distract us from the real question anyway…how could we have stopped it from happening in the first place?

I am convinced that transforming our criminal legal system, anchored in retribution and punishment, to a system that is anchored in accountability and healing, is at least part of the solution. Survivors of violence have many unmet needs that have nothing to do with punishing someone else. And those who have harmed or who might do harm to others should be able to access comprehensive mental and behavioral health care (including trauma care) in Tennessee, at least as easily as they can access a gun.

As our state wrestles with this tragedy, TADP is committed to having the hard conversations about how to prevent such violence from happening at all and to seek true justice in our communities–providing safety, healing, and real accountability for anyone experiencing harm.

Thank you for your support in this work.

Love and peace,

Stacy

No Executions in Tennessee 2022: Let’s Keep It Up in 2023

2022 could be called “the year of the botched execution” because of the high number of states with failed or bungled executions. Seven of the 20 execution attempts were visibly problematic — an astonishing 35% — as a result of executioner incompetence, failures to follow protocols, or defects in the protocols themselves. On July 28, 2022, executioners in Alabama took three hours to set an IV line before putting Joe James Jr. to death, the longest botched lethal injection execution in U.S. history. Executions were put on hold in Alabama, Tennessee, Idaho, and South Carolina when the states were unable to follow execution protocols. Idaho scheduled an execution without the drugs to carry it out. One execution did not occur in Oklahoma because the state did not have custody of the prisoner and had not made arrangements for his transfer before scheduling him to be put to death. The Death Penalty in 2022: Year End Report, Death Penalty Information Center​

As you know, after TADP, attorneys, pastors, and others urged Governor Lee to stop executions and to look into the problems with Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, he stopped the five executions scheduled for this year in order for an independent investigation of the protocol to be conducted. This was the right thing to do. The investigation’s findings will be released by year’s end. 

Support TADP today to make the most of this moment to prevent executions and move our state closer to death penalty repeal.

Execution Pause: The governor was moved to act after he became aware of “technical problems” with the lethal injection protocol, leading him to stop the execution of Oscar Smith an hour before it was to take place. It is clear that the issues with Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol go far beyond technicalities.

Four days after Governor Lee halted executions, state attorneys admitted in a document filed in federal court in a lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, “that they have learned that there may be factual inaccuracies or misstatements” in their prior filings. More revelations indicate that the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) failed to follow its own protocols in preparation for Mr. Smith’s planned execution, as well as for past lethal injection executions, and that the pharmacist supplying the drugs is willing to break the rules of professional conduct.

These discoveries are deeply disturbing, but not surprising. Such outcomes are a predictable result of a Tennessee law that shrouds the lethal injection process in secrecy and the state’s reliance on overworked and underpaid correctional staff, without medical or pharmaceutical expertise, to carry out executions.

We must seize this moment! Your gift to TADP today will enable us to do just that.

Lifting the Shroud of Secrecy: In 2023, TADP will educate Tennesseans about why the state’s secrecy statute, shielding the lethal injection protocols from public view, has led to the current situation. If Tennessee is unwilling to carry out executions in the light of day, this only reinforces TADP’s belief that we shouldn’t be carrying them out at all.

During this critical moment in Tennessee when all executions are on hold, your support will allow us to work to keep the pause on executions in place in 2023 and to encourage even more citizens to reexamine our reliance on a policy that is failing to prevent future violence, failing to address the needs of those who have been harmed, and failing to make us safer. Together we will make the most of this moment and move Tennessee even closer to repeal! 

​Thank you for your support, and Happy Holidays!

When Innocence Is Not Enough

I remember reading Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in the 1993 Herrera v. Collins case with my mouth gaping open. In that case, Justice Scalia opined that the Constitution does not stop the government from executing someone, even if new evidence indicates that the person may be “actually innocent.” At the time of Herrera, only one other justice agreed with this distorted analysis: Clarence Thomas.

The court has changed.

Radley Balko’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post demonstrates how a once unthinkable position was made law in the 6-3 Shinn v. Ramirez ruling. In Shinn, SCOTUS determined that even though the court did not find the innocence claims of Barry Lee Jones, a man on Arizona’s death row, to be unpersuasive, it did find that the federal courts were barred from considering them. Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion.

If you are baffled as to how the highest court in our nation could determine that actual innocence isn’t enough to protect a person from execution, join the club. When the final arbiter in our criminal legal system determines that expediency and procedure trump getting to the truth, administering actual justice, and ensuring that the innocent are not executed, our system is in terrible trouble. Under no circumstance should anyone face execution if, as the title of Balko’s article frighteningly summarizes, “The Supreme Court says guilt is now beside the point.”

Balko closes his piece by revisiting Mr. Jones case:

Every court to consider the actual merits of Barry Jones’s innocence claim has ruled that he should never have been convicted of murder. And every court to rule against Jones did so for procedural reasons without considering the new evidence. If Jones is executed, it will not be because there is overwhelming evidence of his guilt. It will be because of a technicality. During oral arguments in 2021 for last week’s ruling, Brunn Roysden of the Arizona attorney general’s office said something that ought to chill us to the bone. When a federal court is deciding whether it has the power to overturn a state conviction, he said, “innocence isn’t enough.” He said it again for emphasis. And then he won

Read Radley Balko’s opinion piece.

Governor Bill Lee Stops All Executions in 2022

On Monday, May 2, Governor Bill Lee announced that the five executions scheduled this year in Tennessee would be halted for an independent review into the problems with the lethal injection preparation that led to Oscar Smith’s reprieve on April 21. Former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton will oversee the review.

“I review each death penalty case and believe it is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes,” Lee said in a statement. “However, the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Correction to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.”

For years, attorneys have demonstrated that the drugs used in Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol risk a torturous and unconstitutional execution. Tennessee also relies on correctional staff, without medical training, to oversee this process. The fact that there was an issue on April 21 is a predictable result of such a flawed process and only emphasizes the the depth of the problems with this protocol.

TADP is deeply grateful to Governor Lee for his leadership and recognition that the investigation into the protocol must be independent, transparent, and thorough. This is the right thing to do.

And, if Tennesseans truly want to embrace a culture of life, we should go a step further. We should reject the false narrative that the death penalty makes us safer or provides justice. Instead we should focus our energy and resources on healing and crime prevention. We should invest in trauma informed solutions that focus on accountability, mental health, and early intervention to prevent crime. We should get victims of violence and surviving families of murder victims the help that they need to heal so that their healing isn’t reliant on what happens to the people who’ve caused them harm. 

During this pause on executions as the lethal injection protocols are reviewed, Tennesseans must reexamine our continued reliance on a policy that is failing to prevent future violence, failing to address the needs of those who have been harmed, and failing to make us safer.

Read more about Governor Lee’s decision.

Honoring Life This Springtime

In nature, springtime is ripe with possibility. Trees bud, buttercups bloom, temperatures warm, and life comes alive.

This spring, In sharp contrast to the season, states like Texas and Tennessee schedule death. They “schedule” death, as if an execution is simply another appointment on a calendar like getting a haircut or going to a PTA meeting.

Texas has scheduled the execution of Melissa Lucio for April 27, only 20 days from this posting. Ms. Lucio faces execution for a crime that almost certainly never happened. In 2008, she was sentenced to death for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah, who died tragically two days after accidentally falling down a flight of stairs. Ms. Lucio was taken into custody and blamed for her child’s death. According to the Innocence Project:

Detectives jumped to judgment and just two hours after Mariah died, took Ms. Lucio in for questioning. During the interrogation, officers berated and intimidated Ms. Lucio, who was pregnant and in shock from the loss of her child, for five hours. Research has shown that survivors of sexual abuse and violence, like Ms. Lucio, are more vulnerable to falsely confessing under such coercive conditions. And experts who have reviewed Ms. Lucio’s case, including reviewed her interrogation records, have concluded that Ms. Lucio “was relentlessly pressured and extensively manipulated” during the interrogation. At 3 a.m., Ms. Lucio said, “I guess I did it,” at 3 a.m. to get the officers to end the interrogation. Her statement was then misconstrued as a confession.

Melissa Lucio has maintained her innocence for 14 years. During her interrogation, she stated more than 80 times that she did not hurt her child, until coerced by police officers.

Before Texas plans to execute Ms. Lucio, Tennessee is planning to execute Oscar Smith, the oldest inmate on Tennessee’s death row at 72 years old, on April 21. Mr. Smith has been on death row since 1990.

Predictably, there are unanswered questions about the evidence used against him and the fairness of the process. On Monday, the Tennessean reported that Mr. Smith’s attorneys have petitioned the court to consider new evidence, demonstrating an unknown person’s DNA is on the murder weapon found at the crime scene where Mr. Smith’s wife, Judy Robird Smith, and her two sons from another marriage, Chad and Jason Burnett were murdered in 1989.

Tennessee has five executions scheduled in 2022, including Mr. Smith’s, more than any other state. Texas is next with four.

In these cases, the same realities become all too clear. Many of the condemned suffered violent abuse and trauma as children at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them. Many have intellectual disability or have developed severe mental illness. And all too often, they were not provided adequate defense during their trials.

In many of the Tennessee cases of those now facing execution and of those already executed, jurors have attested that they did not have an accurate understanding of the sentences the men would receive if not given a death sentence, or they wrongly believed that Tennessee would never carry out the executions. Tennessee did not execute anyone from 1960 to 2000. Jurors also raise the concern that they were not given the option of alternative sentences that juries in Tennessee now have, like life without the possibility of parole, which had yet to become law. In other words, many of those currently scheduled for execution in Tennessee would not receive a death sentence if tried today.

Of course, we can all agree that these are terrible crimes and that surviving family members have suffered immense pain and trauma because of the murder of their loved ones. The hurt is beyond description. But trapping these families in a legal process for decades that only compounds their pain and does not adequately address their financial, emotional, and spiritual need is certainly not the answer. We can do better.

In this month, when people of many faiths celebrate their holiest days, as nature gives way to new life, and as possibility is born, let us seek to honor life, to join together to stop these executions, and to work for a world where the death penalty is no more

Ask Governor Lee to stop the execution of Oscar Smith.

Ask Governor Abbott to stop the execution of Melissa Lucio.

Read the Tennessean story.

Image from Innocence Project

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