Yesterday, nearly 30 Tennesseans gathered at the state capitol for TADP’s Annual Justice Day on the Hill. To start the day, we gathered in the Old Supreme Court chambers in the Capitol building and were inspired by several legislators who addressed the group. The legislators shared their concerns about the death penalty, including its cost, lack of fairness, and risk of executing an innocent person. To drive the concerns about innocence home, Paul House and his mother, Joyce, were present for Justice Day for the first time together. Paul spent 23 years on Tennessee’s death row before all charges against him were dropped in May 2009.
We also heard a moving tribute to the late Representative Larry Turner by his wife and current state representative, Johnnie Turner. Larry Turner always addressed TADP on Justice Day, and last year, he spoke at the TADP Justice Day press conference about his support and sponsorship of moratorium legislation. Yesterday, Johnnie reiterated how much Larry believed in abolition, even though his own brother had been brutally murdered just a few years ago while on the job in Memphis. Larry’s opposition to the death penalty never wavered. We all joined Johnnie in remembering and giving thanks for Larry, for his convictions, his witness, and his service to the state of Tennessee.
After the morning session, we made our way through the halls of Legislative Plaza to meet with legislators concerning a bill repealing Tennessee’s death penalty sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Richardson and Senator Beverly Marrero. The conversations were informative and encouraging. The personal stories told by surviving family members of murder and by the sister of an executed inmate, were particularly compelling to legislators, many of whom had never met anyone whose loved one had been executed. Concerns about the cost of capital punishment also became a key point of discussion considering Tennessee’s budget woes. TADP participants agreed legislators seemed more open to considering the problems with Tennessee’s death penalty system than last year, and we hope that trend will continue next year.
Thanks to all who participated in some part of Justice Day on the Hill! Because of you, we are moving closer to the day when the death penalty in Tennessee will be repealed.
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