Letters of the Law

Other Death Penalty Study Committee Member Sees It Differently

I am writing in response to the article in the September issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal by Bill Redick ["Is Tennessee Going to Fix Its Death Penalty?, vol. 45, no. 9, Tenn. B.J. (2009)] on the work of the legislature's death penalty study committee. I served as the representative of the Attorney General's Office on the committee.
  
While Mr. Redick's article contains several unfounded generalizations about this office, I would like to address certain misstatements concerning specific issues. In the article, Mr. Redick asserts that this office "resisted the implementation of meaningful reforms." Further clarifying that comment, Mr. Redick states in footnote 35 that "[t]he representatives of the prosecutors supported a very watered-down legislative proposal to require recording of custodial interrogations.  Otherwise, the representatives of the prosecutors only supported proposals to speed up the litigation process." Mr. Redick's recollection of this office's votes and positions on the various proposals brought before the committee is incorrect.
  
The only proposal considered by the committee to "speed up the process" would have eliminated the Court of Criminal Appeals from direct review in capital cases. This office strongly opposed that measure because of the important role of the intermediate appellate court in reviewing capital cases for error.
  
As to SB 0261/HB 0596, the proposal to record custodial interrogations in homicide cases, my office supported that proposal. Though Mr. Redick characterizes the proposed legislation as "watered down," the bill sought to have statements preserved by means of a recording, a clear improvement on current practice in our view.
  
As to the proposed legislation on open-file discovery, SB 1402/HB 1456, this office did not vote against the proposal. Instead, we suggested to the committee that any proposed amendments to the rules governing discovery should be reviewed by the Rules Committee of the Tennessee Supreme Court, since that body is in a better position to evaluate how such rule changes would operate in the overall context of the existing Rules of Criminal Procedure.
  
Finally, this office articulated support for increased compensation for counsel appointed to defend capital cases as well as improved standards for appointment of such attorneys, although it disagreed with Mr. Redick over the means to achieve those goals.
— Elizabeth T. Ryan, Associate Deputy Attorney General, Nashville

Reverse Legal Psychology Learned from Electric Football

This letter was written to columnist Bill Haltom about his September 2009 column, "It's Football Time in Tennessee! (Are You Ready for Some Lawsuits?)"
 
Thanks for the memory. My brothers received the electric football game for Christmas, but I loved it. I got to know the players, and I could actually set my "Wrong Way" so that he ended up going the right way " a tactic that sometimes works with my clients, too.
— Alice W. Wyatt, Dunlap