FEATURED POST

Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

Image
In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

On 'Substituting the Electric Chair for the Hangman's Noose'

On Sept. 27, 1913, the 58th General Assembly of Tennessee approved Senate Bill 125, making the electric chair the state's official method of execution. The chair, which Tennessee has used to kill 126 prisoners - the 1st of whom was executed nearly 100 years ago on July 13, 1916 - is the subject of this week's cover story.

The bill adopting the electric chair in Tennessee stated that "whenever any person is sentenced to punishment by death, that court shall direct that the body of such person be subjected to shock by a sufficient current of electricity until he is dead." It appropriated $5,000 "or so much thereof as may be necessary" for the construction of a death chamber and electric chair. And while the condemned had previously been hanged to death in the counties where they were convicted, the bill also stated that all executions would thereafter be carried out in Nashville.

The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 27 to 4 and the House by a vote of 64 to 2. In all, 6 men voted against it, and we only have their last names: Cecil, Fitzpatrick, Fulton, Hare, Emmons and Shaw. The bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Ben Hooper.

After the jump is the text of a editorial that ran in the Lawrence Democrat almost 2 weeks after the bill was passed. Among other things, it shows that a century later we're still having all the same arguments about the death penalty:

We are pleased with the passage of the law substituting the electric chair for the hangman's noose in Tennessee. It is a short step it is true but nevertheless a step in the direction of juster, less horrible, less barbaric penal laws.
The killing of men for crime is illogical, and out of harmony with saner instincts of civilization. The only reason to be urged for capital punishment is that the penalty be made thereby so harsh and horrible as to become a preventive force to the commission of crime. The student of history, however, knows that in every age it has failed utterly to accomplish this end. Wherever and whenever punishment has been most harsh and brutish, the very crimes thus sought to be prevented have instead increased. Barbarity does not reform the criminal. Harshness and horror of penalty rather sows the seeds of brutishness and blood-lust in the minds of those of inherent weakness or crime-tendency, which grows into a sanguinary harvest.
There is even in the mind of the ignorant, a sense of proportion, a conception of justice, which revolts at the idea of the state committing the very man-killing for which it condemns the individual to death. And while electrocution preserves this ancient horror, and perpetuates barbarity, yet it seeks to diminish its horror, and hide it away from publicity. Of course this is a contradiction in legal standard, a rank and palpable inconsistency to seek to take away the horror it may create. Electrocution shows a tendency in the public ideals toward a humaner, and a saner system, and will help bring man to a realization of the futility and hurtfulness of the age-old error of killing to punish killing. And as it has such a tendency we are pleased because of the passage of the law in Tennessee.

One wonders what the editorial board of the Lawrence Democrat thinks of the fact that 100 years later, this "age-old error" persists, slowed only by logistical concerns like the availability of drugs for lethal injection - the next execution method, adopted in the hopes that it was "a step in the direction of juster, less horrible, less barbaric penal laws."

Source: Nashville Scene, July 10, 2016

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Please help us keep this blog up and running!


"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Most Viewed (Last 30 Days)

Harris County leads Texas in life without parole sentences as death penalty recedes

Idaho County commissioners take stand against death penalty

Texas: Reginald Blanton executed

30-year-old Chinese inmate bids farewell to daughter, wife and mother before execution

USA: Executions, Death Sentences Up Slightly in 2017

Indonesian death penalty laws to be softened to allow reformed prisoners to avoid execution

Death penalty cases of 2017 featured botched executions, claims of innocence, 'flawed' evidence

Virginia Governor commutes death sentence of killer found mentally incompetent to be executed

5 worrying things we’ve learned from new Saudi execution numbers

Texas man with scheduled execution uses letters from fellow death row inmates to argue for reprieve