- Associated Press - Saturday, April 26, 2014
Questions about who would get the electric chair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Lawyers and others disagree on whether a bill that passed in the legislature could legally force death row inmates with older convictions to die by electric chair if lethal injection drugs aren’t available.

The Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that would allow death by electrocution if drugs aren’t available. It’s not clear whether Gov. Bill Haslam will sign the bill into law.

A last-minute amendment on the bill said it would apply to all condemned prisoners, regardless of conviction date. Current law gives inmates who committed crimes before 1999 the choice on whether they want to die by electric chair or lethal injection.

Some lawyers say the government can’t change the method of death for inmates who were already convicted.

“I don’t think so because I think that if someone were sentenced under the lethal injection statute then they cannot change the sentence to execution by electrocution,” Brad MacLean, an attorney who has represented a number of condemned prisoners, said.

Nashville criminal defense attorney David Raybin agreed. Raybin, who helped draft Tennessee’s death penalty law nearly 40 years ago, said lawmakers may change the method of execution but they cannot make that change retroactive. To do so would be unconstitutional, he said.

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Officials tour Memphis, review federal investments

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The heads of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency toured Memphis on Friday to review results of federal investments aimed at improving housing and transportation options, protecting the environment and building stronger regional economies.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Housing and Urban Development Southeast Regional Administrator Ed Jennings hopped on a bus with media and local dignitaries to visit projects funded by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities in Memphis, one of the poorest large cities in the country.

The federal agencies have coordinated on more than $130 million in investments in the Memphis area through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and $4 billion throughout the country.

Investments in Memphis include programs to address negative effects of urban sprawl and automobile dependence on inner-city neighborhoods, improve infrastructure and spur development near Memphis International Airport, and help river ports deal with effects of severe weather.

They also include $6 million from HUD for a $175 million project to refurbish the massive, but empty, Sears Crosstown tower and create a mixed-use “urban village” around it.

The tour included an overview of investments at the Harahan Bridge, which will convert an old automobile bridge into a walking and biking trail connecting Tennessee and Arkansas. They also visited a FedEx facility, the up-and-coming Broad Street business corridor and the Legends Park West housing development.

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