death penalty
9:44 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Death penalty abolition bill before Mo. House committee

A House committee heard testimony Wednesday evening on legislation that would abolish the death penalty in Missouri.  The bill would also commute sentences of all current Death Row inmates to life without parole.

Several people testified in favor of the bill, including Kevin Green, a California man who spent 16 years in prison on charges that he raped his wife and killed their unborn baby.  He was eventually exonerated after DNA evidence showed another man had committed the crime.  Green says doing hard time in prison is a harsher punishment than being executed.

“I have broke bread with men who have killed and who have had the death penalty, and had it reverted back to a life sentence when they did away with the death penalty back in the 70’s," Green said.  "(They) wished for the death penalty to be there again because they would have already been dead, instead of having to languish in a prison for the rest of their lives, knowing they’ll never get out.”

No one testified against the bill before the House Corrections Committee, but committee member Paul Fitzwater (R, Potosi) voiced his opposition during and after the meeting.

“I believe that we have to have some type of measure to deter crime in the state of Missouri," Fitzwater said.  "The victims that are murdered, they don’t have a voice, and I think of the victims, I think of those victims that have lost their lives -- they’re no longer here.”

Fitzwater admitted, though, that he struggles with his position because one of his best friends, William Rousan, is awaiting execution at Bonne Terre.  Rousan was sentenced to death for the 1993 murders of Charles and Grace Lewis at their farm in Washington County.

The committee, meanwhile, has not yet voted on the bill.  It's sponsored by State Rep. Penny Hubbard (D, St. Louis).