On Sunday, the Tennessean endorsed Governor Bill Haslam for a second term, citing his leadership on issues ranging from higher education, Tennessee’s economy, and a tough response to domestic violence. Additionally, Haslam was lauded for displaying leadership to temper the more extreme factions of his party. All of this led the editorial staff to conclude that the governor deserved a second term.
However, the paper thought there was room for improvement as well, specifically naming capital punishment as one area that required more leadership from Haslam. They challenged Haslam’s long-stated stance that the “will of the people” is sufficient reason to back off of personal convictions. “As governor, we believe he should be the voice of reason,” the Tennessean stated, “balancing compassion with law and order.” The paper’s endorsement comes on the same day that death row inmate Olen Hutchison died of natural causes while awaiting a May 2015 execution date. Although Hutchison was not even present during the murder for which he faced execution, he was circumstantially implicated by co-defendants who obtained reduced sentences for their testimony. Former Chief Justice Reid of the Tennessee Supreme Court decried the death penalty for Hutchison and the District Attorney General who prosecuted the case concedes there is room for honest doubt as to whether death was ever the appropriate punishment.
The Tennessean is right that a second term gives the Governor another opportunity to conduct a serious review of the state’s failing death penalty. As more Tennesseans understand just how flawed this system is, the “will of the people” is shifting. If the death penalty is, in fact, a system that metes out arbitrary sentences and subsequent punishments costing taxpayers millions without making us safer, then Governor Haslam must exercise his authority, reason, and compassion to speak honestly and lead the people of Tennessee to understand just how flawed the policy is. This is what a leader does.
Photo source: http://www.tn.gov/governor/about.shtml
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