Law and Action

Tonight I head to Knoxville to meet with the Knoxville TCASK chapter and help facilitate a planning session to mobilize the Knoxville city council to call on the state government to enact a moratorium on executions until we can be guaranteed that the system is applied fairly. We have some work to do (both in the state office and the Knoxville chapter) to expand our work to all of the Knoxville area. To do that, I’ll be meeting with the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville on
Wednesday morning.

That same day, in the afternoon, Stacy and I will be meeting with a number of lawyers in the Federal Public Defenders office around a number of cases. I can’t stress enough how important these partnerships are to our work. Especially in Tennessee, the incredible lawyers working in the appellate process are the dike holding back the flood of over 100 executions that could happen. Secondly, the lawyers are the absolutely experts on the cases. They can offer the most information and access to facts that allow us to frame any particular execution as a part of the larger debate on the utility of the death penalty as a public policy.

TCASK’s working model for prepping for a case looks like this. When we see that a case will be coming up (an execution date is likely to be set) we sit down with the lawyers working the case (when we can get all the parties together) and talk through the facts of the case. We talk about the public framing that will work best for us, and see how that plays in to the legal strategy that the lawyers are working on. Then we at TCASK put together our case summary (you can see some of those case summaries here) which we then send to the lawyers to make sure that it isn’t factually inaccurate and doesn’t get in the way of the legal strategy. In other words, we find the best public frame within the confines of the legal strategy put forward by the attorneys (the last thing we want is to screw up a legal strategy designed to protect a person from execution).

This model hasn’t been in place very long, but so far it has worked well. We’ll be putting it into place tomorrow on the case of E.J. Harbison and Paul House. But mostly we hope to eventually never have to have these meetings again, after we end the use of the death penalty.

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