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Tennessee lawmaker apologizes after proposing ‘hanging by tree’ as execution method

Greek Revival architecture, Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville. (Photo by: David Underwood/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — A Tennessee lawmaker is now apologizing after suggesting hanging as a form of capital punishment in the Mid State.

Rep. Paul Sherrell said he “used very poor judgment” when showing support for HB1245, introduced by Rep. Dennis Powers. The bill would offer death row inmates the opportunity to die by firing squad.

At the state Criminal Justice Committee session on Tuesday, Sherrell said the bill was a “very good idea” and suggested adding an amendment that would include an option for “hanging by a tree.”

Sherrell walked back on those comments on Wednesday.

“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 said in a written statement. “My exaggerated 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 have been hurt or offended.”

Rep. Powers said if HB1245 is passed, it would be up to the Tennessee Department of Correction to develop perimeters around the bill and facilitate it. He also said TDOC is reportedly not opposed to the death-by-execution bill.

Rep. Powers added he conducted a survey of people on death row, which showed that a firing squad is the preferred method of execution. If passed, the bill would not make the unique method of execution mandatory.

Some Democratic lawmakers disagreed with the bill and said during the committee meeting that a firing squad is a cruel and unusual form of punishment.