Friday, 15 August 2008

Mo. bishops oppose man`s execution

August 15, 2008 Mo. bishops oppose man`s execution by Joseph Kenny, Review Staff Writer
Bishop Robert Hermann has joined a group of religious leaders in the state who have asked Gov. Matt Blunt to spare the life of Dennis Skillicorn, who is set to be executed Aug. 27. The clemency application was submitted by the four Catholic bishops of Missouri and other religious leaders, including representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, the Baptist General Convention of Missouri and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, N.Y., and Institute for Peace and Justice in St. Louis also took part. The clemency application pointed out that Skillicorn has never denied his involvement in the robbery and kidnapping of Richard Drummond in 1994 but did not take part in his murder. It also noted that since his arrest, Skillicorn had dedicated his life to God and has been a mentor for youth, compiling "Today�s Choices Affect Tomorrow�s Dreams," first-hand accounts of death-row inmates about the consequence of their poor decisions. The book is distributed free to juvenile centers. He also has been editor of Compassion, a newsletter written by death-row prisoners that focuses on healing and raises money for college scholarships for family members of murder victims. The religious leaders are among a number of people opposing Skillicorn�s execution. Diana Oleskevich, justice coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, said Skillicorn is asking for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison without parole. "A couple things make this case particularly unique," said Oleskevich, a member of the board of Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty. "One is that Dennis did not commit the murder. His co-defendant, Allen Nicklasson, admitted it, and the court evidence corroborates that." Skillicorn "was not at the crime scene and did not pull the trigger," Oleskevich said. "Therefore, he is being killed for a crime that he did not commit. The courts say he was an accomplice, but he did not pull the trigger, and everyone admits that." According to news reports, Skillicorn, Nicklasson and another man accepted a ride from Drummond after their car broke down near Kingdom City, Mo. They took him to a secluded area in Lafayette County and robbed him. Nicklasson took Drummond into the woods and shot him twice in the head. The religious leaders stated that the death of Drummond was a tragic waste of life. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time. Sadly, no punishment will restore him to his family. Some may argue that society needs the death penalty to protect life. We strongly believe, however, that society can adequately protect human life without the taking of another human life." Skillicorn has been a leader of the prison�s Christian community. He lives in the honor dorm and is a volunteer and current chairman of the prison hospice program, caring for terminally ill patients. Oleskevich said Skillicorn was a drug addict and criminal before entering prison but since then "has done incredible work." She said she is moved by Compassion Magazine and its focus on forgiveness. "It truly is the Scripture quote that Jesus came to serve the sinners. Dennis has helped countless people to find healing and turn their lives around." The Sisters of St. Joseph and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Region 10 are planning a prayer service at St. Francis Xavier "College" Church in Midtown St. Louis on the eve of the execution, but "we hope that doesn�t take place, that the clemency petition works," Oleskevich said. In the petition, the religious leaders stated their concern that the use of the death penalty promotes vengeance as a means of resolving social problems. "It appears that the violence that frightens us so much is making us proponents of violence." The religious leaders stated that Skillicorn is no longer a threat to public safety and that "society and public safety would be better served if he were allowed to continue his worthwhile ministries in prison." The execution would be the first in the state since 2005. Another man, John Middleton, is set to be executed Sept. 17.

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