Just two days after Tennessee’s first electrocution in nearly 50 years, Governor Phil Bredesen (pictured) commuted the death sentence of Michael Joe Boyd to life in prison without parole. The Governor called the representation Boyd received during his appeals “grossly inadequate,” adding that Boyd’s claims were never comprehensively reviewed because his appellate attorney - Dan Seward - failed to provide evidence to support Boyd’s initial claim that he was poorly represented during his trial. Bredesen observed, “I’ve always taken the position that I’m not trying to be the 13th juror; I’m trying to be a backstop. The judicial system just kind of broke down.” Boyd’s current attorney, Robert Hutton, said that Boyd’s clemency request to Bredesen was one of the last legal avenues available before his scheduled execution on October 24.

Boyd, now known as Mika’eel Abdullah Abdus-Samad in prison, has been on death row since 1988. He was convicted of shooting William Price in 1986. Boyd claims the shooting was accidental, but he was convicted of felony murder in perpetration of a robbery. The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld Boyd’s death sentence in 1998, when the justices dismissed his claim that prosecutors improperly cited the murder itself as an aggravating factor to support their call for the death penalty.

“He is deeply grateful, thankful and deeply remorseful about his actions in his past. He’s trying to spend the rest of his life making a positive contribution to society,” Hutton said of Boyd.
(Associated Press, September 14, 2007). See Clemency.