ACLU-TN: Tennessee’s Electric Chair Mandate Wrong, Backward

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 23, 2014 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE –Governor Bill Haslam signed legislation Thursday evening making Tennessee the first state to mandate use of electrocution when lethal injections are unavailable. Tennessee legislators passed the legislation in April by an overwhelming majority.

Since 1973, nearly 150 people have been released from death row because they were innocent. Others were executed before their innocence was later proven. Carlos DeLuna was executed in 1989 in Texas though an independent investigation has now concluded he was innocent. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 in Texas for an arson that killed his three children. Impartial investigators now say there was no arson.

Eighteen states in and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, including Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The following can be attributed to Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director:

Regardless of the method, state killing is wrong. Tennessee took a huge step backward by mandating use of the electric chair—an extremely brutal and cruel means of execution—at a time when eighteen states have recognized that the death penalty is unfair and unjust and repealed it altogether. The death penalty does not achieve real justice when over 100 people sentenced to death have been exonerated and decisions about who lives and who dies are largely dependent on how much money they have, the skill of their attorneys, the race of the victim, and where the crime took place. Life without parole is a better way to keep communities safe without sacrificing our values.

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