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Re Porter - Silly bill
bethany porter

I thought at a young age we were all taught to not just say the first thing that pops into our brains, but I think some of us skipped that lesson. In case anyone missed it, our state representative said we should start hanging people from trees. 

State Rep. Paul Sherrell decided to give his two cents while discussing a bill that would allow death row inmates different options. The bill is kind of wild anyways because, in my opinion, (and hey, we ARE on the Opinions page) dead is dead. A lethal injection death will result in the same thing as a firing squad death: A dead person. 

During discussion, Sherrell thought it would be a great idea to say, “I was wondering could I put an amendment on it that would include hanging by a tree also?” It’s one thing to be out with your buddies and make a wild comment, but when you are an elected official representing Tennessee you need to be cautious with your words. Our elected officials need to be held to higher standards. I don’t think he should have made the comment regardless of where he was saying it, but especially not while he was “representing” us. 

No one can even claim he was joking because in his “apology” he said he was just trying to support the victims of these crimes. How asking to include hangings correlates to support for victims beats me. It is also incredibly ignorant to not realize the racist roots of hangings. Even if, and I mean a big "if," Sherrell somehow didn’t understand the racial connotations behind his statement, I think he still should have kept that thought to himself. 

I also find this bill ridiculously unnecessary as it is. The representative sponsoring the bill, Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro), said in preparation for the bill, a survey was done concluding that most people on death row would prefer a firing squad. He said that is the most humane and effective method of executing inmates. Later Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said proposing death by fire squad or by electric chair seemed like cruel and unusual punishment and a step backward for Tennessee. Powers rebutted and said “We need to think about the victims and not the perpetrators.” 

Powers’ two statements are conflicting because first he said he wanted to give inmates options, now it is all about the victims and not the perpetrators. Which is it? Like I said, dead is dead. I don’t know why they need options. Death row is not a Baskin Robbins. I think one size fits all. I don’t understand the need to present a menu of different ways to be killed to death row inmates. 

I think there are other things that our Tennessee lawmakers could be working on besides adding options for death row inmates or trying to name a street after an ex-president who can probably count on his hands how many times he has visited Nashville. I really don’t know what Tennessee lawmakers are doing because a literal resolution designating pumpkin pie as a symbol of Tennessee is currently making its way through the general assembly now. What are we doing?

Standard reporter Bethany Porter can be reached at (931) 473-2191.