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USA (Tennessee): Further information on death penalty / legal concern - Philip Ray Workman

, رقم الوثيقة: AMR 51/054/2001

Philip Workman's execution was stopped about half an hour before he was scheduled to be put to death at 1am on 30 March in Tennessee.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/054/2001
2 April 2001
Further information on EXTRA 04/01 (AMR 51/009/2001, 16 January 2001) and
follow-ups (AMR 51/019/2001, 5 February and AMR 51/034/2001, 1 March 2001)
- Death penalty / Legal concern
USA (Tennessee)Philip Ray WORKMAN, white, aged 45
Philip Workman’s execution was stopped about half an hour before he was scheduled
to be put to death at 1am on 30 March in Tennessee. The state Supreme Court,
which issued the stay, had finally been persuaded to grant an evidentiary hearing
into claims that Workman did not fire the bullet that killed Memphis police
officer Lieutenant Ronald Oliver during a robbery in 1981. The witnesses were
already in the witness room next to the execution chamber when the stay came
through.
The stay was issued after the Governor of Tennessee had denied clemency on
27 March, despite the fact that two state Supreme Court judges had previously
suggested that this was a case which warranted executive clemency. The governor
reportedly listed four criteria for his decision: 1. I am convinced Philip
Workman is guilty of the crime for which he was sentenced to death; 2. This
case involves the matter of a law enforcement officer; 3. The punishment is
appropriate under the law; and 4. I am confident that he has had adequate access
to the courts.
On 29 March, three of the nine US Supreme Court Justices voted to stop the
execution. One of the three, Justice John Paul Stevens, said that he believed
Workman’s claims were “sufficiently serious to require a full evidentiary
hearing”. Numerous other judges, including seven on the federal Sixth Circuit
Court of Appeals who last year voted for an evidentiary hearing, have also
had doubts about the reliability of Workman’s conviction. It is difficult to
square their opinions with the Governor’s absolute confidence in Workman’s
conviction. Speaking after the governor’s denial of clemency, one of Workman’s
lawyers said “I think he missed an opportunity to demonstrate courage and
statesmanship”.
In its last-minute decision, taken after years of rejecting the call for an
evidentiary hearing, the Tennessee Supreme Court wrote: “Workman has raised
serious questions regarding whether he fired the shot that killed Memphis Police
Lieutenant Ronald Oliver... No court in this State has actually held a hearing
to fully evaluate the strength of these claims”. Granting the hearing, the
Court said: “Workman will have the opportunity to establish that newly
discovered evidence may have resulted in a different judgement if the evidence
had been admitted at the previous trial. If he makes this showing, and if he
also establishes that he “was without fault” in failing to prevent the newly
discovered evidence at the appropriate time, he will be entitled to a new trial.”
According to reports, the governor received more than 28,000 appeals in the
Workman case, most of them urging clemency. The Tennessean newspaper reported
that a vigil shortly before the planned execution “culminated months of protests
against Workman’s execution by international humanitarian organization such
as Amnesty International and religious groups such as Tennesseans for a
Moratorium on Executions, a coalition formed last fall of more than 50 religious
and other organizations”.
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Philip Workman’s lawyers have asked for their thanks to be passed on to all
those who sent appeals. No further action is necessary by the UA Network.

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