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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tennessee: Associated Press

April 11, 1999 ----

In Nashville, with Tennessee inching toward its 1st execution in
nearly 40 years, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and other music stars
are joining forces with death penalty opponents for a statewide
series of events.
"The Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing" 6th annual tour
features a panel of speakers headed by 1998 Nobel Peace Prize nominee
Sister Helen Prejean. Her book about her relationship with a death row
inmate was made into the movie "Dead Man Walking" starring Sean Penn and
Susan Sarandon.
They will speak at schools, churches and fraternal organizations in
Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis through April 25.
People who attend will "meet some incredible people ... who have had
loved ones killed and who know that the death penalty is not the answer
to their healing," Sister Prejean said.
A benefit concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium is scheduled for Monday
night. Among the performers will be Earle, who also plans to travel to
the other events around the state. Harris, Jackson Browne and The Indigo
Girls also will perform. Proceeds will go to pay tour expenses.
The tour will be in Memphis Tuesday through Thursday; Knoxville on Friday
through Sunday; Chattanooga on April 19-21; and wrap up in Nashville
April 21-25.
"We have a really strong group of speakers who are murder victims' family
members who are opposed to the death penalty," Earle said. "And that's a
hugely powerful place for this message to come from."
Earle, a longtime opponent of the death penalty, was instrumental in
bringing Journey of Hope to Tennessee after participating in it last year
in Texas. The event also has been held in Indiana, Georgia, California
and Virginia.
Earle wanted it in Tennessee because the state is getting closer to its
first execution since 1960, when William Tines of Roane County was
electrocuted for rape.
Robert Glen Coe, convicted and sentenced to death in 1981 for slitting
the throat of 8-year-old Cary Ann Medlin, is set to die June 15, though
the date likely will be pushed back by Coe's appeal to the U.S. Supreme
Court.
He was convicted by a jury in Memphis, where the trial was held because
of public outrage in the girl's hometown of Greenfield.
"Memphis is our Houston," Earle said. "It's a real cesspool when it comes
to the way they dole out the death penalty.
"And it's (Gov.) Don Sundquist's home base, and he wants to kill somebody
really bad, but he's going to have to come over me."
Sundquist spokeswoman Beth Fortune said the governor "strongly supports
the death penalty."
"He believes it's a law that should be carried out, and he believes it
would serve as a deterrent to crime," Fortune said. "It's appropriate
punishment for heinous crimes."
Victims' rights activist Rebecca Easley, whose sister was murdered in
1977, said she finds events like Journey of Hope "self-righteous."
"We want victims to know that they don't have to feel bad if they don't
forgive or embrace this kind of thinking," Easley said. "Everybody has a
right to their own feelings about someone who slaughtered their loved
ones."
Easley noted the Journey of Hope tour ends the same day National Crime
Victims Rights Week begins. Victims' rights organization You Have the
Power will sponsor a week of events in Nashville, culminating in a
memorial service for crime victims and free concert April 29 at the
Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Matraca
Berg, Kim Richey and Gretchen Peters will perform.
"If celebrities really want to help crime victims, they should put on a
benefit to help prevent crime," Easley said. "If we would all concentrate
on crime prevention, there wouldn't be a need for the death penalty."
Sister Prejean says she respects other viewpoints, but hopes Journey of
Hope prompts some to rethink their position on the death penalty.
"It's always so understandable when people do choose the option of
vengeance because the state is saying, `We have this person tied up in
this room next door. What would you like us to do to them?"' she said.
"And they're incredible people if they say, `Don't kill them."'
For information about The Journey of Hope, call Grassroots Media at
615-340-9596.