We try to stay pretty sharp on current events here in the TCASK office. We read the news, talk to people across the state, make contacts, send emails, and basically just try to figure out as much as we can about decision-makers and influential citizens in Tennessee. So when we saw that the National Convention of State Legislators was being held here in Nashville, our ears perked up. When we saw that one panel at the conference was entitled “Capturing DNA’s Crime Potential,” we started to scent a lead, and when we learned that State Senator Ron Ramsey, the majority leader, was one of the featured speakers on that panel, we were dead on the track.
Ramsey, a Republican from Blountville, is the current majority leader and might be the Lieutenant Governor by January, so clearly, getting a sense of his position and understanding of problems surrounding wrongful convictions could be extremely helpful for us. And I have to say that I’d like to commend Senator Ramsey on his clear understanding of the need for DNA testing. The Senator mentioned, several times, that “DNA also proves people’s innocence” and mentioned that discovering that evidence is a “step in the right direction.”
We entrust public officials with sometimes life and death decisions, so when they make decisions, we want them to have the best information available. Clearly Senator Ramsey is aware that DNA evidence, even of crimes long thought to have been solved, can prove the innocence of the wrongfully convicted. In fact, Senator Ramsey’s district borders the district in which Paul house was convicted of the murder of Carolyn Muncey in 1985. We now have DNA evidence which points to House’s innocence, but he still sits on death row. Why? Maybe because enough legislators are not as informed on the issues as Senator Ramsey.
So if you reside in Senate district number two, write to Senator Ramsey and thank him for his concern for the wrongfully convicted, but also remind him that, while DNA evidence is a wonderful tool, it is not always available; of the 124 death row exonerations, only 13 have been due to DNA evidence. Which is why we need a full moratorium on executions to ensure that we eliminate any chance of executing an innocent person.
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