Thursday, February 22, 2007

Missouri groups lobby for death penalty moratorium

February 22, 2007


Missouri groups lobby for death penalty moratorium

By Bob Watson, News Tribune

State Rep. Bill Deeken promised no miracles Tuesday when he talked about his
bill seeking a three-year moratorium on Missouri executions.

"I feel very confident that we will get a hearing this year, which is, I
think, the most important thing," said Deeken, R-Jefferson City. "Will we
get it passed this year? No.

"I've found out that you just don't come up with a bill and get it passed
right away."

Deeken's bill would place a moratorium on all executions in Missouri until
Jan. 1, 2011, and create a 10-member Commission on the Death Penalty to
study the use of the death penalty and recommend changes to state laws and
court rules regarding death penalty cases.

That commission would include lawmakers, defense and prosecution lawyers,
the Attorney General and family members of a murder victim and of a death
row inmate.

Deeken told more than 50 Missourians who came to Jefferson City to lobby for
the bill that the Missouri Catholic Conference asked him to sponsor it.

"The first thing I told them was, I am in favor of the death penalty,"
Deeken reported, "but we've got to do something about the people that are
being put to death that are not guilty - and we're finding this out more and
more, all the time."

Tom Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor with a 50-year history of legal
battles, co-chaired Illinois Gov. George Ryan's Capital Punishment Study

Like Missouri, Sullivan said, Illinois' system had a lot of "bias in the
application of the death penalty" because each county's prosecutor decides
which cases to prosecute as death cases, with "no systematic review of what
they do - so you'll see a very great disparity among the cases that are
selected for death."

Ultimately, Sullivan said, Missouri should join the dozen other U.S. states
that don't have a death penalty.

"The deterrent effect of it is a joke," he said. "The death penalty is a
dumb law - stupid, costly and far more expensive than to put somebody in
jail, if they did it.

"And if you make a mistake, it's irreversible."

While many in the crowd agreed with Sullivan, they were encouraged to lobby
only for the moratorium right now.

Redditt Hudson, Racial Justice manager for the American Civil Liberties
Union of Eastern Missouri, told the crowd: "Our mission is worthy ... moral
(and) just."

Hudson struggles with the issue of the criminal justice system's just-ness
and fairness, when there have been 128 exonerations nationwide "where
innocent people have been shown to be innocent, yet (are) on death row,
scheduled to be executed."

"It doesn't mean I'm pro-criminal," he said. "It doesn't mean I'm

"It means that as a human being, and for the sake of our collective
humanity, we have to do a better job of delivering the justice process to
the people who are in our system."


Source : News Tribune

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