Open Government Indeed

Governor Phil Bredesen has traditionally been a big proponent of open government, but it seems like the Governor has gone back on his own principles when it comes to life and death. Almost three months ago, the Governor made a moral and brave decision to revamp the state’s execution protocols, which he referred to as “sloppy.” Yet since that time, there has been no openness in the government whatsoever. The Governor directed Department of Corrections Commissioner George Little to update the procedures, but there has been absolutely no way for the public to have any information about what is happening! Put simply, we don’t know who is being consulted, what new execution protocols may involve, who will be carrying them out, etc.

When an execution is carried out, it is done in the names of all the people of Tennessee. Tennesseans, therefore, deserve to know whether the protocols for such an execution are acceptable to them. Instead, the Department of Corrections has refused to release any details of the protocols, stating that they will become public record when they present them to the Governor on May 2nd – with Phillip Workman scheduled to be executed less than a week later on May 9th!

How are we, the people of Tennessee, supposed to have any time to examine these procedures and ensure they meet basic standards of humanity and decency in less than a week!?

The Nashville Scene has sued the Department of Corrections for information regarding the development of the new protocol, but the state Attorney General remains obstinate in his claims that such information is “privileged.” The Nashville City Paper has full coverage here.

And if anyone thinks that this issue isn’t serious, I’d urge you to check out the Death Penalty Information Center’s list of botched executions so we can be aware of exactly what we risk if the Department of Corrections and the Governor do not take this issue seriously and conduct a thorough and open review!

You can call Dorinda Carter, the Communications Officer for TDOC, at (615) 253-8144 and tell her that Commissioner Little owes it to the people of Tennessee to make the review of Tennessee’s execution protocols open to the public and open to review by independent experts!

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