By a vote of 79-14, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation creating a study commission to examine the state's death penalty system. A similar measure unanimously passed the state's Senate in May, just one month after the American Bar Association issued a report finding that the state was not in full compliance with most of the benchmarks established to guarantee a fair death penalty system.
The new commission will consist of representatives from the House, Senate, and Governor's administration, as well as prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims' advocates, and representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The commission members are expected to review Tennessee's death penalty system for one year following their appointment.
Stacy Rector, Executive Director the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, noted, “Tennessee’s death penalty system is dangerously broken, and the legislature should be commended for acknowledging these flaws and taking steps to fix them. . . . Tennessee has a death row of over 100 individuals and the largest legal organization in the country has said that we do not even have the proper mechanisms in place to guarantee that we do not execute an innocent person. Tennesseans deserve a system we can trust, and our current system doesn’t meet that standard.”