Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lobby Day for Death Penalty Moratorium

All pro-life activists and Missourians against the death penalty - Save the Date and join us in Jefferson City to lobby for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Sam Millsap, the former Texas prosecutor who sent the wrong guy to death and now tours the country opposing the death penalty will be there. The Philadelphia CityPaper has an interview with him here. Please see the official release from the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph following the graphic.
Coalition Advocates for Death Penalty Moratorium in Missouri
Call for Balance in the Scales of Justice

(Kansas City, MO / Feb. 12, 2009) Building upon a temporary halt in executions in Missouri and nine other states, concerned citizens will travel to the State Capitol on February 18 to urge legislative support for Deeken HB 484 / Day SB321. If passed, the bi-partisan measure would place a moratorium on Missouri’s schedule of executions for 48 inmates, would lead to an examination of capital punishment laws, and would create a statewide commission to gather community input. The commission would address a range of questions including:

- Whether all prosecutors use similar criteria in seeking the death penalty
- Whether defendants receive adequate counsel
- Whether alternatives to the death penalty exist that ensure public safety
- Whether the condemned share particular demographics – race, ethnicity, age, and mental capacity

Accompanied by Sam Millsap, representatives from Moratorium Now!, Missouri Catholic Conference, and the American Civil Liberties Union will advocate for passage of the legislation. Millsap served for five years as Bexar County District Attorney, in Texas. Among defendants Millsap prosecuted was Ruben Cantu, executed in a capital murder case in 1992. Following a 2005 investigation by the Houston Chronicle, considerable doubts arose about Cantu’s guilt. Millsap acknowledges that he erred in seeking the death penalty on the basis of testimony by a single eyewitness. He has assumed personal responsibility for Cantu’s execution. Millsap campaigns against the death penalty throughout the United States.

Coalition partners believe that the state must protect its citizens and discipline those who commit serious crimes. Jude Huntz, Director of Human Rights for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph, pointed to concerns about how best to do this.

“Catholic teaching challenges us to examine why we turn to the death penalty,” said Huntz. “To take a human life – even when that person is guilty – is awesome and tragic. Our position is rooted in the belief that human life is sacred and that every person has a duty to protect life at all stages and in all circumstances.”

“Crime is both a manifestation of the great mystery of evil and human freedom,” said Huntz. “We should not expect simple solutions by fighting violence with violence,” he said. “We have to move beyond vengeance in order to deal with the root causes of crime.”

Missouri resumed the death penalty in 1989. Since that time, the state has put to death 66 inmates and currently ranks fifth in the nation in the rate of executions by population. In September 2008, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a stay of execution to John Middleton to hear oral arguments on the validity of Missouri’s lethal injection procedures. (John C. Middleton v. Department of Corrections, et al. SC89571 pending).