Death Penalty Controversy Not Going Away in Tennessee

Something happened while the legislature wrestled over Insure TN and the latest piece of gun legislation–a Tennessee Republican joined Democrats in sponsoring a bill to repeal the death penalty.

Now to be clear, Representative Jeremy Faison is a death penalty supporter. However, one of his constituents is Ray Krone, the 100th man exonerated in this country after spending years in prison and on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Representative Faison, though not ready to repeal the death penalty, does believe that the death penalty statute in Tennessee is too broad and is concerned about the kind of evidence that it currently takes for someone to end up on death row. He joined in sponsoring this bill in order to begin a conversation about ways to address these concerns, and for that, we are grateful.

Still, we know that all the tweaking in the world will not “fix” the death penalty system. Other states have tried and failed and finally repealed the death penalty. Even as I write this blog, an effort to repeal Nebraska’s death penalty (an effort led by a majority of Republicans), is as close as it has ever been to succeeding. The issue for many of these Nebraska Republicans is not whether or not the death penalty is justifiable in some cases, as many of them believe that it is. The issue is instead whether or not the state can carry out executions in a just, fiscally responsible way with 100% accuracy every time. And these legislators are now convinced that it can’t. We have some convincing to do in Tennessee as well.


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