Death penalty is Rotary topic

Tom KingFarragut, Feature

Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade, now Dean of the Duncan School of Law at Lincoln Memorial University, spent some time discussing the death penalty in front of the Rotary Club of Farragut last Wednesday. It was a timely talk.

Wade, a judge for 28 years, talked about a death penalty case making the news these days – the Billy Ray Irick case. This case, Wade said, is a textbook case that the “warehousing” of prisoners sentenced to the death penalty is more economical than trying to carry out executions.

With all of the appeals involved with the death penalty these days, Wade said it is more economical for the state to keep prisoners jailed for life. “That is more cost effective when you consider the cost of the appeals process,” he said, citing the Irick case as one prisoner who has been fighting his sentence for 32 years. “He raped and murdered a 7-year-old girl in 1985 and is still filing appeals,” he said.

In 1986, Irick, now 59, was convicted and sentenced to death with then Knox County Criminal Court Judge Jimmy Duncan presiding over the trial.

The state has said that Irick would be executed on Aug. 9.

Now, the Tennessee Supreme Court should delay his execution so an appeals court can hear a case challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol, Irick’s attorneys argued in a motion this past Monday. Absent this, he has no remaining legal options.

He’s also one of 33 death row offenders in Tennessee challenging the state’s lethal injection process.

“They begin with the trial and end with the appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Wade said. “And then within a year, there’s a post-conviction review again beginning in the trial courts and going through the Court of Criminal Appeals and ultimately the state Supreme Court. And that simply takes some time. Then, the whole process repeats in the federal courts.”

Wade said that 31 states have the death penalty but four of them have declared a moratorium, so 27 states today use it. “Tennessee has always had the death penalty,” he said.

“But it’s been used off and on in Tennessee. The death penalty has no middle ground. You’re either for it or against it and 72 percent of Tennesseans favor the death penalty.”


The last execution was in 2009. He said the “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the Biblical basis for the death penalty, but the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus seems to reject the death penalty with the comment by Jesus to “turn the other cheek.”

In a 2014 story, it was reported that Wade – appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen – heard a total of 21 death penalty cases and voted to uphold the death penalty in 18.

Farragut Rotary Notes
  • Farragut Rotary’s Partner in Education is Ridgedale School and as we all know the new 2018-19 school year is just around the corner. Ridgedale’s Back to School Fair & Market to begin their year will be on Monday, Aug. 6, from 1-4 p.m. at the school off Oak Ridge Highway. Farragut Rotarians will be there to staff the popular hot dog stand and will be interacting with the students, faculty and others.
  • And on the third Thursday of each month Farragut Rotary has a social event that draws between 15 and 20 members plus friends or spouses. This month the club’s Third Thursday will be a service opportunity on Aug. 16 when members will be working and helping families at “Laundry Love: Knoxville” with their laundry loads … washing, drying and folding. Rotarians also will be cooking hot dogs and helping with the kids. This event is sponsored by the club’s Family of Rotary committee. The fun begins at 6 and runs until 9 p.m. at the Bluewater Laundry at 3721 N. Broadway. Laundry Love: Knoxville is a program operated by Neighboring Knoxville, designed to ease the burden of laundry care for struggling families. Everything is free for the families served.

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