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Death Penalty: Yes
A bluegrass concert at Nashville's historic Station Inn. Photo by James Staub.
Famous Capital Cases
Workman was executed in 2007 for the death of police officer Ronald Oliver, though later ballistics evidence suggested that the bullet that killed Oliver did not match Workman's gun, and may have come from the gun of another officer on the scene.
Payne's case resulted in the Supreme Court decision Payne v. Tennessee (1991), which allowed victim impact statements to be heard in the sentencing phase of a trial. Payne is still on death row in Tennessee, as of February, 2011.
Paul Gregory House
Charges against House were dropped in 2009 after he spent 23 years on death row and his case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Governor Phil Bredesen commuted her sentence to life in 2010 after she served for over 20 years for hiring someone to kill her husband. Owens was willing to plead guilty for a life sentence at trial, but because her co-defendant would not, the plea bargain was rescinded.
In 1965, Governor Frank Clement commuted the sentences of everyone on Tennessee's death row after an abolition bill was defeated by one vote.
Milestones in Abolition Efforts
Tennessee had a study committee in 2007-2009 that recommended changes to the current structure, but not abolition.
Executive moratorium in 2007 for 90 days while lethal injection protocol was examined.
In 1965, Tennessee’s Senate voted to repeal the death penalty and repeal only lost in the House by one vote.
Tennessee was one of the first four states to exclude those with intellectual disabilities from the death penalty, doing so in 1990.
Tennessee only resumed executing people in 2000. The state went from 1960-2000 with no executions.
In 1838, Tennessee became the first state to give juries discretion in sentencing those convicted of murder, turning away from the traditional mandatory death sentence.
During the Progressive era (1890’s-1920’s),Tennessee was the only former Confederate state to legislatively abolish execution for murder. The 1915 bill was vetoed by the governor, but went into effect because his veto came too late. In 1919, the death penalty was reinstated.
Other interesting facts
Tennessee was the last Southern state to resume executions in the modern era.
Many thanks to Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty for contributing to this page.