Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Nixon, Hulshof Oppose Death Penalty Moratorium

Widow of Ozarks Murder Victim Signs On
Rep. Deeken: "A Lot of People Agree . . . But Don't Want to Be Public"
Rep. Lipke: "Safeguards already in place."

The three leading candidates for Missouri Governor oppose a state House bill that would halt executions for two years to study potential flaws in the state's death penalty system.

For the last two years, a federal judge has put the death penalty in Missouri on hold over concerns involving lethal injection. Now, some state lawmakers want to effectively extend that moratorium. Supporters of the legislation testified in Jefferson City at a House committee hearing Tuesday. A widow of a man who was murdered in Christian County back in 2005 told the committee "she's still on the fence" about the death penalty. But Ginger Masters also said she did not believe "the state should be in the business of killing its citizens, in most cases."

You can watch my KY3 News @ 10 report HERE.

A spokesperson for Democratic candidate for Governor Jay Nixon tells the KY3 Political Notebook that Attorney General Jay Nixon is against any moratorium.

"He believes juries should have the option to sentence the harshest punishment for the most heinous crimes in a fair and just manner," said Nixon spokesman Oren Shur.

"There are brutal killers who have been sitting on death row in Missouri for years, and meanwhile, the families of their victims have not received the justice and closure they deserve. We must do everything to ensure that the death penalty is carried out in a fair and just manner, but we should not keep the victims’ families from getting that closure," Shur added.

Republican Kenny Hulshof's campaign for Governor echoed Nixon's opinion of the bill. "Kenny doesn't believe any moratorium is necessary," said Hulshof spokesperson Scott Baker. "He believes the justice system works."

***A spokesman for Sarah Steelman said the State Treasurer also opposes the moratorium bill. "She's for the death penalty and believes there shouldn't be a moratorium," said Steelman spokesman Doug Gaston. "She's not opposed to any review, she just opposes supsending it while its being reviewed," Gaston said.

House Bill 1870 is publicly backed by 58 House lawmakers, including 14 Republicans and 44 Democrats. Springfield Rep. Sara Lampe is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Deeken said he knows that more lawmakers privately agree with the cause, but don't want to publicly sign on to the bill. "It's an election year . . . and they're afraid it will slam them," Rep. Deeken said.

Deeken, who supports the death penalty, said he's just pushing this legislation study potential problems with the way executions are determined and administered in Missouri.

Republican Rep. Scott Lipke said he's worried the bill is written with pre-conceived notions against the death penalty. "If its that egregious, that heinous of a crime . . . there are some people deserving of death," Lipke said in an interview after the hearing. He said he would vote against the bill in its current form.

Specifically, House Bill 1870 would place a moratorium on all executions until January 2012. It would establish a 10-member bipartisan commission that would be tasked with making recommendations for changes to laws and court rules.

The commission would study if defendants who are sentenced to death "are in fact guilty," whether "race plays an impermissible role" and if prosecutors around the state seek the death penalty using similar criteria.

No vote was taken on the bill Tuesday.

1 comment:

dudleysharp said...

Say no to moratorium

To: The Missouri General Assembly and
Media throughout Missouri

FROM: Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Rep. Bill Deeken (R-Jefferson City) and others have filed or co sponsored HB 1870, which would establish a moratorium on the death penalty until 2011, along with a death penalty study commission.

Rep. Deeken and others have voiced various reasons to support that bill (see below), I have followed those with my REPLY, to rebut or add to those ideas.
1. Rep Deeken: Is Missouri executing innocent people?

Reply: The answer is no.

Actual innocence reviews are already done, extensively, throughout the investigation, the pre trial, trial and appellate process and by the executive branch, through clemency/commutation review.

Is the commission going to have a new trial with cross examinations, rules of evidence, sworn testimony? This is the job of the legal process and the judiciary.

Any study will show that, very rarely, actual innocents are found guilty and sentenced to death, They are later freed based upon post conviction reviews.. We already know this, just as we know that actual innocents are, also rarely, found guilty for all levels of crime.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

In addition, there are Innocents Projects throughout the US, including in Missouri, whose sole task is looking for innocents convicted or executed. There is no logical reason for The Missouri General Assembly to spend additional time and money on such a study.

The supporters of this bill should be aware that innocents are more at risk with an execution moratorium or, otherwise, without the death penalty.

SEE: "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents", to follow.

What about a much more serious innocence problem?

How many Missourians have been harmed and murdered by those criminals on parole and probation, while under Missouri government supervison? I suspect thousands of innocents have sufferred serious injuries and hundreds of innocents have been murdered by those criminals in Missouri since 1977.

Possibly a moratorium and study of those practices is truly merited. It is a huge innocent harmed problem.

2.Rep Deeken: Look at the role race plays in the administering the death penalty

REPLY: The race issue has been well covered and can also be a review issue, pre trial, trial and on appeal, when merited. When based upon thorough examination, see below, racial bias in death penalty cases does not appear to be a current problem.

See "RACE: No Bias in Death Penalty Sentencing", to follow.

3. Rep Deeken: Look at the adequacy of a defendant’s legal counsel and

REPLY: Adequacy of defense counsel can always be an issue at every stage of the legal process.

Is there any criminal sanction in Missouri that gets better representation and better due process protections than the death penalty? No.

4. Rep Deeken: Do prosecutors who seek the death penalty do it consistently across the state?

REPLY: No need for this study. No sanction, absent mandatory sentencing guidelines, is consistent across any state. The death penalty cannot be mandatory. Prosecutorial discretion is important. Some prosecutors pursue the death penalty more often than others. This is the same with all sanctions that don't have mandatory sentencing.

This is well known. No need for a study.

5. Rep. Deeken’s bill would establish a ten-person commission.

COMMENTARY: Nationally, most of these commissions are stacked against the death penalty and it is, usually known anti death penalty folks, or closet anti death penalty folks, who push them. The proposed ten member commission in Missouri could, easily, be stacked with 6-9 anti death penalty folks, with the result predetermined.

There are two ways to avoid that bias. No commission, which seems merited, based upon the review, above. Or select well known supporters and opponents of the death penalty, making sure there is an even number of both, where both sides to the debate agree on those chosen and their numbers. It's tough to do, but it's possible. The result would likely be a 5-5 vote.

Therefore, no commission seems like the better solution.

7) What do the supporters of HB 1870 really want?

Rep. Deeken states: “If I was on a jury and condemned a person to death, and he was put to death, and I found out five years later that he was not guilty, that would be very hard for me to live with."

REPLY: Neither a commission nor a moratorium will remove that fear, unless the real goal is to do away with the death penalty. Furthermore, it is questionable that any of the stated concerns merit an additional study or additional delay in a process that already has the longest and most thorough review process.

Furthermore, innocents are more at risk without the death penalty. They may cause some to reconsider their thinking.

SEE: "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents", to follow.

So what is it that the supporters really want? It's a fair question.

8) Voice of Opposition

Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, said "My sense is (the moratorium) is a vehicle to totally do away with the death penalty".

“There are a lot of factors that I always hear argued about as a reason that we need to get rid of it — somebody changes a witness or an account of a crime. But people need to understand is there’s a lot of things already built into the system.”

REPLY: Precisely.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa(AT), 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-Span, Court TV, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites


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