Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project Releases Tennessee Report
The Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment Report, the sixth in a series of eight state reports, was released by the Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project on April 21, 2007. The report analyzed the extent to which the Tennessee death penalty system comports with minimum standards of fairness and due process. Research was conducted by a state-based team of current or former judges, legislators, prosecutors, defense lawyers, bar association leaders, and law school professors.
The Tennessee Team identified specific problems in the Tennessee sys tem including inadequate procedures to address innocence claims, excessive caseloads for defense attorneys, inadequate access to experts and investigators, inadequate performance and qualification standards for defense counsel, an inadequate proportionality review to ensure that the death penalty is being applied fairly across the state, lack of transparency in the clemency process, inadequate pattern jury instructions, racial disparities in capital sentencing, and the sentencing to death of people with severe mental disabilities. Because of these and other problems, the team concluded that the state should impose a temporary moratorium on executions until Tennessee can ensure fairness and accuracy in every capital case.
The Tennessee Report received significant statewide media attention upon its release and the Tennessee General Assembly subsequently passed a bill forming a death penalty study commission to look into many of the issues raised in the Tennessee report.