According to The Hill, Rep. Paul Sherrell (R) initially made the suggestion on Tuesday (February 28) while discussing an amendment to a bill that would allow death row inmates in Tennessee to be executed by firing squad during a House Criminal Justice Committee meeting.
As he expressed his support for the amendment, Sherrell added, “Could I put an amendment on that it would include hanging by a tree, also?”
In a statement, Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, said the comment was evocative of lynchings.
“He is celebrating a particular form of execution used against African Americans in Tennessee and across the nation, including innocent and wrongfully convicted persons,” Sweet-Love said. “In many parts of the South, lynchings took place in nearly every county as it exemplified racialized and anti-Black violence. We know from numerous research studies that Blacks are also disproportionately executed, especially when the alleged victim is White.”
“It is a sad day in Tennessee politics when a lawmaker publicly announces that he wants to resurrect the lynching tree,” she added. “We demand an apology from Representative Sherrill and ask the House leadership to condemn statements advocating racialized violence.”
Sherrell said in a statement on Wednesday (March 1) that he regrets his “poor judgment” in making the suggestion.
“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,” Sherrell said. “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.”
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