On January 13, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) hosted a press conference at the State Capitol to commemorate Missouri’s resumption of executions in 1989 and to call for an end to state executions. The event featured speakers who have first-hand knowledge of the death penalty system.
Rita Linhardt, MCC staff and Chair of the Board for MADP, issued an opening statement saying that from a moral, religious, and human rights perspective, the death penalty is unacceptable. She noted, “the death penalty falls heavily on people of color, the poor, people with limited mental capacity, and those with mental illness.”
Elizabeth Unger Carlyle, an attorney for several Missouri death row inmates, highlighted the systemic flaws of the death penalty system she has experienced and the heavy toll it takes on all involved. “I think the system is broken, and there is no reason to try to fix it,” Carlyle said.
Reggie Griffin, formerly living on death row in Missouri and exonerated in 2013, gave a powerful account of what it was like living under a death sentence. “It was horrible knowing that you didn’t commit the crime, but that you could be next in line to die,” he said. He noted how difficult it was to transition back to society after 30 years in prison.
Val Brown, whose daughter and two others were murdered by Deandre Buchanon, gave a moving talk on why she opposes the death penalty. “He took something precious from me,” Brown said. “At first, I wanted him dead so much, I could’ve taken his life myself.” But she was eventually able to meet him and forgive him. “The death penalty is not gonna help … getting rid of him won’t bring her back.”
Charlie Rogers, attorney for Herbert Smulls, who is scheduled to be executed in January, talked about the issues in the case. “Mr. Smulls could be the poster child for racial bias in the death penalty,” noted Rogers. He explained how an all white jury convicted Mr. Smulls, a black man, after the prosecutor used false pretext to eliminate the one prospective black juror.
Posted: January 14, 2014