A redneck Tennessee state representative thought it would be a good idea to reintroduce lynching as a method of execution for Death Row inmates– back into state legislation.
According to video footage from a February 28 session from the Criminal Justice Committee, Republican Rep. Paul Sherrell suggested an egregious addendum to HB1245, a bill that would permit additional methods of capital punishment to lethal injection, including electrocution and execution by a gun via a firing squad.
HB1245 is defined as “Criminal Procedure – As introduced, allows for a sentence of death to be carried out by electrocution as an alternative to lethal injection if the commissioner of correction certifies to the governor that the department is unable to adhere to the lethal injection protocol required to carry out the sentence of death. – Amends TCA Title 40, Chapter 23.”
The so-called Christian lawmaker told his fellow representatives, “I was just wondering, could I put an amendment on that that would include hanging by a tree, also? And I would also like to sign on to your bill, sir. Thank you.”
According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), between 1877 and 1950– there were 236 documented cases of lynchings of Black people in Tennessee. And many were not criminals. They were Black educators, business people and journalists. Oftentimes, Black Tennesseans were hung for demanding basic human rights. The highest number of lynchings occurred in Shelby County. In 1897, the state became one of three that banned lynching. It was a felony, but the law didn’t stop Black people from being brutally lynched with impunity.
In Tennessee, there are 45 inmates on Death Row. Of the 45 prisoners, 24 are Black. It begs the question that Black people would again be disproportionately affected by lynchings if the method of punishment is added to the death penalty.
On March 3, Sherrell’s suggestion didn’t go unchecked by Black representatives. They called for the podunk politician to resign or be severely disciplined.
“The Republican Caucus should be ashamed and outraged. The silence of his members is deafening,” Black Caucus Chairman Sam McKenzie expressed. He also stated that he didn’t want some half-assed apology.
Of course, Sherell issued the obligatory “my bad” along with a sorry-ass excuse for his addendum.
“I regret that I used very poor judgment in voicing my support of a colleague’s bill in the Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday,” Sherrell began. “My aggressive comments were intended to convey my belief that for the cruelest and most heinous crimes, a just society requires the death penalty in kind. Although a victim’s family cannot be restored when an execution is carried out, a lesser punishment undermines the value we place on protecting life. My intention was to express my support of families who often wait decades for justice. I sincerely apologize to anyone who may I have hurt or offended.”
“It evokes the sordid history of not just Tennessee, but of America, of those days when lynchings were common practice when due process was denied to Black men whenever a white man decided to,” Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, said about Sherrell’s remarks. He also said he doubted the white politician’s sincerity in his pre-written apology.
“I couldn’t believe that I was hearing that and of all committees, a justice committee,” he continued, also expressing how pi**ed he was by Sherrell’s terroristic suggestion.
HB1245 is set to be heard by another subcommittee on March 15.