Tennessee Senator Sponsoring Bill to Block Executions

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
February 2, 2001 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE–State Representative Rob Briley has agreed to sponsor a bill on behalf of the ACLU and 20 additional organizations that would place a moratorium on executions while a study is conducted into the fairness and application of the death penalty, the Tennessean reported.

Capital punishment has been criticized by the ACLU and civil libertarians as being disproportionately used against people of color and the disadvantaged.

“There is no question that many people sitting on death row are there because they are poor, because they are people of color, because they had incompetent counsel and other problems in their trial,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee.

Texas and Oklahoma in particular have come under fire for executing extremely large numbers of people including the mentally disabled, a practice forbidden in many states. According to the ACLU, Oklahoma currently ranks number one in executions per capita.

Last year, the governor of Illinois placed a moratorium on executions after Northwestern University journalism students found 11 innocent people on death row. In Oklahoma, seven people on death row have been exonerated and released over the past two decades.

Rep. Briley, a lawyer in Nashville, echoed increasing concerns about such mistakes occurring in Tennessee. “When you are talking about depriving someone of their life, I don’t think there is any room for error.”

According to the Tennessean, Illinois, Nebraska, Maryland, Arizona and North Carolina are currently undergoing studies similar to the one proposed by Rep. Briley, although only Illinois has instituted a moratorium on executions pending its findings.

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