"Race, Wrongful Conviction and the Death Penalty," a virtual community forum, will be held at 4 pm on Sunday, October 25. The forum is hosted by several Oak Ridge organizations. Instructions on how to attend the forum are at the end of this article.
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, the death penalty is disproportionately reserved for those who are Black or poor or who have a severe mental illness. From 2007 to 2017, eight of nine new death sentences in Tennessee were given to Black defendants. In 2012, the Equal Justice Initiative looked at jury selection procedures in eight Southern states, including Tennessee, and found shocking evidence of racial discrimination in each state, including counties where prosecutors excluded nearly 80% of Blacks qualified for jury service; majority Black counties where defendants were tried by all-white juries; and some prosecutors who were actually trained to exclude people from juries based on their race.
Panelists include Rolanda Hollman, Sabrina Butler Smith, and Reverend Stacy Rector. Rolanda Hollman, the sister of Tennessee prisoner Pervis Payne who is scheduled for execution on December 3, 2020, will speak to circumstances surrounding his case and the push for DNA testing and commutation of his sentence. Sabrina Butler Smith, an exoneree from Mississippi's death row currently living in Memphis, will connect issues from her case to those in Pervis's case and the broader realities of racial injustice inherent in the death penalty. Reverend Stacy Rector, the Executive Director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, will reflect on current issues raised by the death penalty, particularly as they relate to race and wrongful conviction.
If you would like to attend the forum, please email stacy [at] tennesseedeathpenalty.org to get the Zoom link.