A 90-day ban on the death penalty in Tennessee expires one week before Philip Ray Workman is set to die by lethal injection, the first scheduled execution since the governor established a commission to overhaul the state’s capital punishment protocols. And although critics, including the American Bar Association, are skeptical any substantial changes can be made in a mere 90 days, the governor appears steadfast in moving ahead as scheduled. Gov. Phil Bredesen stands by his May 2 deadline ending the ban, as well as Workman’s scheduled execution a week later: “The governor has received the report issued by the ABA, and while he has great respect for the organization, he has no plans to extend the moratorium,” Lydia Lenker, the governor’s spokeswoman, writes in an e-mail to the Scene. After spending three years examining Tennessee’s death penalty, a team of legal experts organized by the ABA asked Bredesen Monday to extend the moratorium to allow for a more thorough review. The team, made up of prominent defense lawyers, prosecutors, a law professor and even a federal judge, concludes the state’s capital punishment system is riddled with flaws, including insufficient procedures for reviewing innocence claims, racial disparities, inadequate standards for defense counsel and excessive caseloads. In pushing the governor to continue the moratorium, the group made clear the ABA has no stance on the death penalty and is interested solely in improving the state’s capital justice system. A state House subcommittee followed suit on Tuesday by unanimously proposing bipartisan legislation that would create a new commission to further study the death penalty system in Tennessee. Despite these concerns, the governor still plans instead to defer to a commission that spent three months—as opposed to three years—reviewing the state’s procedures for administering lethal injections and electrocutions. Nashville defense lawyer Michael Passino says he’s troubled by the state’s resolve to meet a seemingly arbitrary deadline, and to execute Workman so soon after the moratorium ends. “It looks like it could be more of a rush to get things done without reference to how thoughtful the study was and how ably and comprehensive the remedies, if any, have been implemented,” adds Passino, who has represented defendants facing the death penalty for 17 years. With what appears to be a firm deadline in place, Workman’s lawyers can do little to prepare for a potential court appeal, given that the commission’s work thus far has been withheld from the public. “We are going to be in a position where we’re going to have to very, very quickly review these new protocols and make a determination whether there are any potential legal challenges,” says Kelley Henry, an assistant federal public defender representing Workman. Despite numerous attempts to obtain information about the process, Henry has been stonewalled repeatedly and has no idea what changes the commission might be considering. With the exception of one poorly publicized and sparsely attended hearing, the commission’s work has been shrouded in secrecy. Consequently, this newspaper recently filed a petition seeking access to public records associated with the development of new execution protocols in Tennessee. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday before Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman. When Bredesen imposed the death penalty moratorium in February, the executions of four other prisoners scheduled to die during that 90-day period were postponed. Going ahead with Workman’s execution, which just happens to fall one week after the ban expires, is both arbitrary and unfair, according to Henry, who suggests the dates of the moratorium might even have been chosen with her client in mind. “They obviously were aware of his execution date at the time this moratorium was set,” Henry says. “The governor elected to end his moratorium a week before Workman’s execution date. It really feels like he was singled out.” But Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper argues in court papers filed last month that there’s nothing unjust about refusing to delay the execution of Workman, whom he points out has had six execution dates since 2000. Cooper goes on to say: “The expectation … is that a revised death penalty protocol that is both constitutional and appropriate will have been established by May 2, 2007. In other words, by May 9, 2007, when Workman’s death sentence is scheduled to be executed, it is expected that his sentence will be carried out pursuant to a constitutional and appropriate protocol.” The Tennessee Supreme Court has since sided with the state on the matter and, without further explanation, denied Workman’s request to delay his execution. “He has been on deathwatch three times, and now he is staring down his fourth trip down there,” says Henry, suggesting such treatment is cruel and unusual punishment. If plans to execute Workman proceed as scheduled, he will for the fourth time wind up on “deathwatch,” the term given to the 72-hour period leading up to an inmate’s execution. While on deathwatch the prisoner is closely monitored by a team of guards standing outside an 8-by-10 concrete cell adjacent to the death chamber. A tiny window overlooking the prison’s exercise yard generally provides a, perhaps final glimpse, of the outside world. Only a few items, such as legal documents and a Bible, are made available to the inmate. On one occasion, Workman was receiving last communion when his execution was called off just 43 minutes before he was set to die by lethal injection. This time, Henry anticipates it might once again go down to the wire: “We probably won’t know if we have a stay until the last minute.” Given the governor’s refusal to extend the moratorium or postpone Workman’s lethal injection, Henry is seeking a stay of execution in federal court. Workman’s legal team currently is awaiting the outcome of several appeals. Workman was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for his role in the 1981 robbery of a Wendy’s restaurant during which Memphis Police Officer Ronald Oliver was shot and killed. Oliver and two other officers responded to a silent alarm tripped by an employee and found Workman exiting the restaurant with a bag of cash. A shootout ensued and Oliver was fatally wounded. Although Workman—a junkie at the time who frequently stole for drug money—never denied the robbery, he maintains he did not shoot the officer. Years after his conviction and death sentence, an alleged witness who claimed to have seen Workman fire the fatal shot recanted his testimony and admitted he lied. Additional evidence has surfaced suggesting a fellow officer accidentally shot Oliver. (Astonishingly, Workman’s defense failed to pursue any ballistics testing prior to trial.) Then there’s the exculpatory evidence that Workman’s lawyers claim the prosecution intentionally withheld from the defense at trial.At the time of Workman’s conviction, state law would not have permitted a death sentence if he did not fire the fatal bullet. -------------------------------------------------------- Later yesterday... Hundreds of homeless people in Nashville, Tennessee, ate well Wednesday evening -- all in the name of a man who the state put to death just hours earlier. Philip Workman, 53, requested that his final meal be a vegetarian pizza donated to any homeless person located near Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, as he wished to fast instead. He was executed there at 2 a.m. ET Wednesday. But prison officials refused to honor his request, saying that they do not donate to charities. That apparently upset a few people willing to pay for and deliver a lot of pies themselves. Homeless shelters across Nashville were inundated with donated pizzas all Wednesday. "I was like, 'Wow, Jesus!' " said Marvin Champion, an employee of Nashville's Rescue Mission, which provides overnight shelter, food and assistance to more than 800 homeless people a night. "I used to be homeless, so I know how rough it gets. I seen some bad times -- not having enough food, the cupboards are bare. But we got pizza to feed enough people for awhile," Champion said. "This really shows the people here that someone out there thought of them." $1,200 worth of pies Donna Spangler heard about Workman's request and immediately called her friends. They all pitched in for the $1,200 bill to buy 150 pizzas, which they sent to the Rescue Mission. "Philip Workman was trying to do a good deed and no one would help him," said the 55-year-old who recruited a co-worker to help her make the massive delivery Wednesday evening. "I knew my husband would have a heart attack -- I put some of it on the credit card. But I thought we'll find a way to pay for them later," she said. "I just felt like I had to do something positive." Spangler wasn't the only person to place an order in Workman's name. The president of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals read a news story about the prison denying the inmate's last request and ordered 15 veggie pizzas sent to the Rescue Mission Wednesday morning. "Workman's act was selfless, and kindness to all living beings is a virtue," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. Not far away, 17 pizzas arrived at Nashville's Oasis Center, a shelter that helps about 260 teenagers in crisis. By 9 p.m. ET, more pizzas had arrived, said executive director Hal Cato. "We talked to the kids and they understand what this is tied to and they know that this man [Workman] wanted to do something to point out the problems of homelessness." When Workman robbed a Wendy's in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1981, he was a strung-out cocaine addict looking for a way to pay for his next high, he has said. He was homeless at the time. Workman was convicted of shooting and killing Memphis Police Lt. Ronald Oliver during the robbery. Many of the pizzas ordered in Workman's name were delivered anonymously, but the first 17 at Oasis Center came from a Minneapolis, Minnesota, radio station that devoted much of its morning show time talking about Workman's request. "They were upset about it," said Cato. He plans to call other homeless shelters in Nashville Thursday and share the pies. "They should be able to benefit from this, too," he said. Cliff Tredway, the director of public relations for the Rescue Mission, said it's more than pizzas that helped that shelter. "It's the story of a guy whose execution translated into a generous act," he said. "It's people donating to other people they don't know. "It's about a group of people who society often writes off getting a pizza party today."