Bill seeks to repeal capital punishment in Missouri

The bill would also order re-sentencing of current death row inmates.

By: Jeremy Truitt
The Maneater
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A new House bill being brought forth by Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-District 58, seeks to repeal the death penalty in Missouri as well as allow re-sentencing for all inmates currently on death row in the state.

The bill aims to restructure the sentencing of offenders of capital offenses and instead offer a maximum term of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Hubbard's legislative assistant Blair Henry said.

Hubbard has been an opponent of capital punishment and is now bringing this bill forward as a means to put action to a movement to repeal the death penalty in Missouri, Henry said.

“I think it was something that Penny has always supported so she is carrying it forth at this point,” Henry said.

Missouri has multiple death row inmates housed at the Potosi Correctional Center, which is about an hour southwest of St. Louis, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Shortly before execution, they are transferred to a separate correctional facility in Bonne Terre where the execution is formally carried out, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Opponents of the death penalty argue that it is not a deterrent to violent crime and the financial burdens far outweigh the benefits of implementing capital punishment, according to Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a grassroots, non-profit organization that advocates the abolition of the death penalty and has been involved in facilitating the legislation to repeal capital punishment, according to its website.

The organization states that Missouri has spent more than $93 million extra on cases where the death penalty was sought, a cost they argue can be directed to more useful areas.

“That money could be going to victims, it could be going to law enforcement to fight cold cases and it could go toward education,” said Kathleen Holmes, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty state coordinator.

Additionally, the possibility of executing innocent inmates is a concern. In the last several years, three inmates have been exonerated through the appeals process and released from death row, something which would not have been possible had they been executed, Holmes said.

“We’re certainly not saying ‘Let them out,’ Holmes said. "We’re just saying that the money that death row costs should go to law enforcement, education and victims.”

Gov. Jay Nixon is a supporter of the death penalty and fought numerous times to uphold it during his 16-year career as the Missouri attorney general, Nixon's spokesman Scott Holste said.

Nixon believes capital punishment is a necessary punishment in certain circumstances, and it should be utilized when the courts deem it necessary, Holste said. He also said Nixon believes in upholding lower court decisions, regardless of the severity of the sentence, but the governor is not always in support of the death penalty.

Last year, Nixon lessened the sentence of convicted murderer Richard Clay. In a news release, Nixon said he had no doubt of Clay’s involvement but decided to exercise his constitutional authority to re-sentence him to life in prison without parole, based on his individual case.

“Governor Nixon believes that (capital punishment) is an appropriate punishment to have available under certain circumstances," Holste said. "It is asked for sparingly, handed down sparingly and administered sparingly."