Thursday, 1 February 2007

Bill calls for hold and review of death penalty

February 1, 2007


Bill calls for hold and review of death penalty

Proponents say guilt of some death row inmates is unsure.

By MATT TILDEN, Columbia Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY - A call for a moratorium on the death penalty has come from
an unlikely source - a Republican proponent of the death penalty.

Rep. Bill Deeken, R-Jefferson City, has proposed legislation that would put
an end to all executions in the state of Missouri until 2011. The
legislation also calls for a commission on the death penalty to be created
in the state to review the implementation of the death penalty in past cases
and assess pending death penalty cases.

Deeken said the Missouri Catholic Conference asked him to propose the
legislation, even though he is a proponent of the death penalty in some

"I am not against the death penalty. But what I am for is to make sure that
any person that is sentenced to death is the right person," Deeken said.

Deeken said he thinks that DNA evidence has led to the realization that the
death penalty has not been implemented fairly in all cases. He said that for
this reason it is necessary for the state to review the practice.

"If I was on a jury, and I found out I had put someone to death that was not
guilty, it would bother me for the rest of my life," Deeken said.

The proposed commission would consist of a broad cross-section of death
penalty experts throughout the state, including a representative and a
senator from both parties, as well as a family member of a murder victim and
a family member of an individual on death row. It would look at issues
regarding the death penalty and report its recommendations and findings to
the governor, members of the legislature and the Missouri Supreme Court by

Deeken said that while he isn't optimistic about the bill's chances, he
hopes the legislation will gain traction for the future.

"Do we think we're going to get this passed this year? No. Bills just don't
get passed in one year," Deeken said. "The main thing we want to do is get a
hearing and get it out there and make people aware of what we are doing. And
we are trying to just do what's right."

Rita Linhardt, a spokesperson for Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty,
said that her organization believes it is important for the state to stop
and review the death penalty system and make sure proper justice is done.

"In Missouri, we feel that we've had 66 executions, but nobody has really
taken the time to see how our system works and whether or not we have flaws
in the system," Linhardt said.

Although her organization seeks to end all executions in the state of
Missouri, Linhardt said that, at the very least, it is important for the
state to establish uniformity in cases in which they seek to implement the
death penalty.

The bill faces opposition from Rep. Van Kelly, R-Norwood, the chairman of
the House Corrections Committee. He called the implementation of a death
penalty commission "another layer of bureaucracy" and said that he believes
the death penalty process is taking too long already. Kelly said he
recognized the importance of validating the guilt of those on death row, but
said that he trusts the current system of appeals to deal with the issue. He
also said that often in the death penalty debate, it is important to
remember that victims have no voice and that imposing a moratorium would
only delay justice for their families.

Rep. Rodney Hubbard, D-St. Louis, an opponent to the death penalty in all
cases, co-sponsored the legislation and said he thinks that a moratorium
bill would be a step in the right direction toward addressing other issues
surrounding the death penalty. He said that the state should start looking
at lack of education as a root cause of violent crime.

"My philosophy has always been 'educate them now or incarcerate them
later,'" Hubbard said.


Source : Columbia Missourian

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