Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP) is holding vigils in Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville on August 9, 2018 to oppose the execution of Billy Ray Irick and to remember all victims of violence, particularly Paula Dyer.
The Nashville Vigil will take place at Fisk Memorial Chapel, 1000 17th Ave. N. at 6:30 p.m., in Memphis at the Steps of First Congregational Church, 1000 South Cooper St. at 6:00 p.m., and in Knoxville at Shalom House at Church of the Savior, 934 N. Weisgarber Rd. at 6:00 p.m.
Billy Ray Irick is scheduled to be executed on August 9 at 7:00 p.m. despite having a lifelong, severe, and well-documented mental illness that included a 10-month in-patient stay at a psychiatric hospital when he was just eight years old. He was sentenced to death in 1986 for the murder of Paula Dyer.
This is Tennessee’s first scheduled execution in almost nine years. The state is planning to carry out the execution using a drug, Midazolam, that has been associated with several problematic executions throughout the country. Experts have argued that the state’s use of Midazolam will increase the possibility of complications.
Please see the following fact sheets on reasons why TADP opposes the death penalty and why Billy Ray Irick in particular should not be executed.
Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a statewide organization that seeks to honor life by educating and organizing Tennesseans to work for repeal of the death penalty, a failed public policy that serves no one.
For more information contact Stacy Rector, firstname.lastname@example.org or 731-445-4803. Visit https://tennesseedeathpenalty.org/ for more info.
Why Billy Ray Irick Should Not Be Executed:
· Billy Ray Irick has lifelong, severe, well-documented mental illness that included a 10-month in-patient stay at a psychiatric hospital when he was just eight years old. Mr. Irick’s extensive history of mental illness has shaped every aspect of his life, and led to a tragic crime, but accurate information about his mental illness was never heard by the jury who sent him to death row.
· At the time of the crime, Mr. Irick was experiencing command and persecutory hallucinations. Three members of the Jeffers family who were living with Mr. Irick at the time have provided affidavits describing Mr. Irick’s psychotic state at the time of the crime.
· No information about Mr. Irick’s severely psychotic state at the time of crime was investigated or presented during his capital trial, or his initial post-conviction appeal.
· The only mental health information presented at Irick’s trial was the state’s psychiatric expert, Dr. Clifton Tennison, who spent one hour interviewing Mr. Irick and testified that there was no evidence of mental illness.
· Years later, after reviewing more complete information about Mr. Irick’s case, Dr. Tennison recanted his testimony, stating, “I am concerned that in light of this new evidence, my previous evaluation and the resulting opinion were incomplete and therefore not accurate… It is my professional opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that without further testing and evaluation, no confidence should be placed in Mr. Irick’s 1985 evaluations of competency to stand trial and mental condition at time of defense.”
· Dr. Tennison presented this testimony to a district court, but unfortunately the court determined that it could not consider the merits of this important new evidence because of a technicality.
· Consequently, because the evidence about Mr. Irick’s mental health history and psychotic state at the time of the crime was only discovered after his conviction and initial appeal. This crucial information has never been considered by any court on its merits.
Why TADP opposes the death penalty:
· Tennessee is moving to resume executions as the nation is moving away from the death penalty, with executions and death sentencing at near record lows and public support at its lowest level in 40 years.
· The overwhelming evidence is that the death penalty system in Tennessee is broken. It continues to be unfairly and arbitrarily applied. How much money you make, the color of your skin, or the county you live in should not be determinative of whether or not you get a death sentence, but too often it is.
· There is a real risk of executing of an innocent person. Since 1960, Tennessee has executed 6 people since 1960 and released 4 people who had been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, and those cases took decades to figure out. How many other innocent people are on death row right now? The system we have simply isn’t capable of ensuring that we get it right 100% of the time.
· The psychological burden that executions place on corrections officials who are asked to carry them out is too much to ask of state employees. More and more corrections officials are speaking out about the trauma they experience as participants in executions including nightmares, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and even suicide.
· The death penalty process takes a toll on surviving families of murder victims by trapping them in a cycle of uncertainly for decades. A sentence of life without parole provides legal finality and begins as soon as the trial is over.
· The death penalty is at least three times as costly as life without parole. Comprehensive studies demonstrate an added cost of $2 million per case from trial to execution for death cases. These are dollars that Tennessee could spend on access to mental and behavioral health care, support for victims’ families, crime prevention programs, and resources for law enforcement.