Closure After Execution?

By: Jim Freeman, Reporter
By: Jim Freeman, Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - After years of appeals and delays, Phillip Workman is now dead.

The convicted cop-killer died about 2:38 a.m. Wednesday by lethal injection at Nashville's Riverbend Prison.

He was just the third condemned man to be executed in Tennessee since 1960.

Volunteer TV’s Jim Freeman spent the day talking to people about what families of the victims experience emotionally as they wait for closure in a death penalty case.

Experts tell WVLT that when a family waits years for an execution, time does "not" heal all wounds. It may help some, but these situations keep the wound open and prevents it from healing completely.

The six people sitting on Tennessee's death row for murders in Knox County have been there for an average of 18 years.

"I got a jury verdict in November 1978, and I am still dealing with that case. I had a motion on my desk this week on that very case,” says Randy Nichols Knox County Attorney General.

Where does all this time leave the emotions of the victims' families?

"And that's what they're searching for. They want some closure,” Nichols says.

Closure for loved ones of Ronald Oliver came this morning after more than a quarter-of-a-century.

"After 26 years of delays, his family, friends and co-workers will finally have the opportunity to really begin to move through the grieving process,” says Valerie Craig from You Have the Power victims’ right group.

"I still after 30 some odd years, I still can't put myself in that position. It's just very, very difficult for these people. Our hearts go out to them,” says Nichols.

Is there a way to shorten the time a family's hearts are put on hold?

"After a reasonable period of appellate review, then the judgment of the court and the verdict of a jury, in my view, should be carried out,” Nichols says.

But is there really closure after an execution?

Dr. John B. Robertson, Jr. of Center for Family Psychiatry says "There's closure, but there's not usually a good feeling of closure usually associated with it."

Which is less traumatic on a family's emotions the death penalty and a long wait or life in prison?

"It would almost be better for the family if they know they were just going to be in jail the rest of their life and not executed. It would be done. It would be done,” Dr. Robertson says.

Twenty-eight of the inmates currently on death row were convicted in East Tennessee.

Following Wednesday morning's execution of Philip Workman, the total number on Death Row stands at an even one-hundred. Two of those are female.


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