More Criminal Justice Affirmative Action: Tennessee Governor Commutes Death Sentence


Edward Jerome HarbisonBy David in TN

In one of his last acts before leaving office, outgoing Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen commuted the death sentence of one Edward Jerome Harbison.

Bredesen said Harbison, convicted of beating an elderly woman to death during a robbery in 1983, did not deserve the death penalty. Harbison had worked for the murdered woman, Edith Russell, as a handyman.

�It’s obviously a heinous crime, but when I compare it to others, I don’t think it rose to the level of a death penalty crime,� Bredesen said. �So I knocked it down one notch to life without parole.�

Harbison confessed, but recanted. He was convicted because his girlfriend had several possessions of the murdered woman in her apartment. These details are not in the story.

Bredesen said in an interview that the incoming Governor, Republican Bill Haslam, is �fine with it.�

Harbison is black. There were three other Tennessee Death Row prisoners for whom Bredesen allowed the death sentences to stand. They are Billy Ray Irick, Stephen Michael West, and Edmund Zagorski. All are white.