Death Penalty

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: This last month has seen a surge in stories about the death penalty: the Boston bomber charged with a federal crime that carries the death penalty; the jury in the Jody Arias trial deadlocked on whether she deserves to be executed; and prosecutors in Ohio weighing whether to pursue capital punishment in the Castro kidnapping case.

Missouri death row inmate Reginald Clemons says detective interrogators beat him so badly he admitted to raping two sisters who were pushed to their deaths from the old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Clemons testified today at a special hearing that he confessed because he feared for his life. He is on death row for the 1991 rape and murder of 20-year-old Julie Kerry and 19-year-old Robin Kerry.

After the hearing, the Missouri Supreme Court will decide whether to commute Clemons' death sentence and possibly require a new trial.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis)

Updated 6:03 p.m. with reaction 

The Missouri Supreme Court will not set execution dates for six death row inmates until a court case over the state's new execution protocol is resolved.

(Propofol: Wikimedia commons, Gurney: via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis, Needle: Flickr via prashant_zi)

Missouri is the first state in the nation to change its protocol for executing prisoners from a three-drug cocktail to the single drug Propofol. The switch is due to a shortage of a key drug, which has stalled lethal injections across the country.

Other states may eventually follow Missouri’s lead, but as St. Louis Public Radio’s Joseph Leahy reports, the drug known recently for killing pop star Michael Jackson is no silver bullet either.

"I just thought it was a good idea"

(New Orleans Saints Press Kit)

Gregg Williams apologizes

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is apologizing to the NFL, to St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams organization and football fans in general for running a bounty pool while he was in New Orleans.

Williams was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday by the NFL, and the Rams say he'll be eligible for reinstatement after the season.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis)

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.

(via Flickr/neil_conway)

Mo. House approves test program that helps children visit moms in prison

Missouri House members are calling for a pilot project to help women in the state's prisons have more contact with their children.

Legislation approved by the House would require the Corrections and Social Services departments to start a two-year test program to provide transportation for children and a caretaker to visit their mothers in prison.

The measure was approved Thursday on a vote of 126-23 and now moves to the Senate.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis)

It may be easier to be sentenced to death in Missouri than in other states, according to a study released today and sponsored by the American Bar Association.

It finds that aggravating circumstances used by prosecutors are so broadly defined that virtually any homicide case in Missouri can qualify for the death penalty.  University of Missouri -- Columbia Law Professor Paul Litton is on the panel that conducted the study.  He says the state’s wide latitude on capital punishment goes against the recommendations of the U.S. Supreme Court.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

CVC: Rams do not accept dome proposal

According to a statement from the the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission released this morning, the St. Louis Rams have turned down the CVC's $124 million plan to overhaul the Edwards Jones Dome.

The CVC's plan included adding 1,500 new club seats, installing a massive 96 foot-long scoreboard over the center of the field and adding windows for more natural light.

The CVC says the team "will submit their own proposal to improve the Edward Jones Dome on or before May 1, 2012."

Missouri Attorney General's office

Koster wants U.S. Supreme Court to reject individual health insurance mandate

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster wants the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an individual health insurance mandate but uphold other parts of the federal health care law. Koster, a Democrat, said Tuesday his office filed a written argument in support of a lawsuit by Florida and other states.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis)

Legislation has been filed in the Missouri House that would abolish the death penalty.

If the bill becomes law, any pending executions in Missouri would be halted, and all inmates sentenced to death would be re-sentenced to life without probation or parole.  It’s sponsored by State Representative Penny Hubbard (D, St. Louis).  She says she doesn’t believe that capital punishment is an effective deterrent.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis)

A federal judge has rejected a challenge by Missouri prison inmates to the state's execution procedure.

The inmates' lawsuit argued that Missouri does not get valid medical prescriptions for the drugs used to put prisoners to death.

The lawsuit cited the state's use of non-medical personnel to administer the chemicals intravenously.

In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey said the inmates' lawsuit failed to show actual harm to anyone.

Missouri's execution process has been the subject of legal wrangling for several years.

(via Flickr/neil conway)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky used in this report.

Murderers convicted in Illinois will no longer be sentenced to death row as the state ban on capital punishment takes effect Friday.

It won't remain in place long if Republican Representative Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst has his way.

Reboletti says he will try pass a law reinstating the death penalty.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Updated 1:49 p.m. with sentence decision:

Christopher Coleman has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.

Original Story:

At 1 p.m. today, Circuit Judge Milton Wharton will decide the fate of Christopher Coleman, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

The Missouri Supreme Court has affirmed the murder conviction for Gregory Bowman, but reversed the sentence that put him on death row.

The court ruled today that St. Louis County jurors should not have heard about Bowman's two prior murder convictions during sentencing because those convictions were overturned.

(via Flickr/jimbowen0306)
  • Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer says he is looking for around $500 million of savings in the state budget over the next several years. Missouri's Legislature is not in session this week because of its annual spring break. But Mayer says he nonetheless will be meeting with Senate budget-writing staff to try to identify changes that can save the state money. Mayer is a former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He gave little indication of what he is looking to cut. But Mayer did note that a gubernatorial commission has identified potential savings by restructuring and paring back the state's tax credits. Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey says the chamber is expected to take up a package of tax credit changes when lawmakers return from their break.

  • University of Missouri curators head to Rolla to determine the qualifications for the system's next president. The two-day meeting beginning Monday at Missouri University of Science and Technology follows several statewide public forums by a 20-member advisory panel that will help curators choose the new president. Curators are looking to replace Gary Forsee, who retired in January to care for his ill wife. Former general counsel Steve Owens is the interim president but is not interested in the permanent job. Campus leaders expect the presidential search to last most of this year. Curators will craft a statement on the desired qualifications of the four-campus system's next leader based in part on public comments from the statewide meetings.

  • The state of Illinois' decision to eliminate the death penalty means about three dozen state employees will soon be out of work. The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports that State Appellate Defender Michael Pelletier began notifying about 37 employees in his office on Friday that their jobs are being eliminated. That's because Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty earlier this month and commuted the sentences of the 15 men on death row. Most of the employees being cut are lawyers who handled death penalty cases. The reduction will save about $4.7 million.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has abolished the state's death penalty.

The Democrat signed legislation Wednesday abandoning capital punishment, two months after Illinois lawmakers voted to do the same and more than a decade after former Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium because of concern that innocent people could be put to death.

  • A deputy U.S. marshal shot in the head while trying to arrest a fugitive early Tuesday morning has died. The U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, D.C. says 48-year-old John Perry died at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Saint Louis University Hospital. He had been with the U.S. Marshals for almost 10 years. Authorities say the suspect, Carlos Boles, shot Perry and a second U.S. marshal and a St. Louis police officer as they were trying to arrest Boles on charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer and drug possession. Boles was killed in the exchange. U.S. deputy marshal Theodore Abegg was shot in the ankle and as of last night was listed in fair condition at SLU.  The St. Louis police officer was hit in his protective vest and received a grazing wound to the face. He was treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and released.

  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn reportedly plans to sign a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state. The two sponsors of the bill say Quinn's staff told them he intends to sign it at a ceremony today. State Rep. Karen Yarbrough and state Sen. Kwame Raoul told The Associated Press on Tuesday that they have been invited to the bill signing in Quinn's Springfield office.  Quinn's office declined to comment about his intentions.  The new law would take effect July 1. Former Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 2000 after the death sentences of 13 men were overturned. Ryan cleared death row before leaving office in 2003.

  • A former St. Louis alderman who was recalled from office in 2005 over his support for controversial development projects in his south city ward seems poised to take his old seat back in April. Tom Bauer defeated the current 24th Ward incumbent, Bill Waterhouse. Bauer will face an independent candidate in April. The three other incumbents facing primary challenges all won. In the south side’s 20th ward, Alderman Craig Schmid beat Shannon McGinn. Sixth Ward Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett beat out criminal defense attorney Brad Kessler to continue representing Lafayette Square and Downtown West. And in the St. Louis Hills’ Ward 15, incumbent Donna Baringer beat out former Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza. As expected, voter turnout was low with less than 7 percent of the city’s registered voters casting a ballot.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Gov. Pat Quinn says he will act this week on a bill that would abolish executions in Illinois.

Quinn said Monday that he's "going to act" this week, but not Tuesday. He said there's still information he wants to read and research he wants to do before acting on the legislation.

The legislation reaches Quinn after former Gov. George Ryan dramatically cleared the state's death row in 2000.

UPDATE 2:08 p.m. Feb. 8, 2011:

The Missouri Supreme Court is refusing to halt the execution of Martin Link.

The court announced the decision without comment on Tuesday.

Link's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, says two appeals (mentioned in our original story below) are still pending before the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Original Story:

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

In an update to a story we told you about earlier today, a judge has refused the request of Christopher Coleman's defense to delay Coleman's trial.

Coleman, accused of strangling his wife and their two sons in 2009, is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Nixon still supports death penalty

Jan 13, 2011
St. Louis Public Radio

Speaking in St. Louis on Thursday Missouri Governor Jay Nixon would not elaborate on the reasons why he commuted the death sentence of convicted murderer Richard Clay.

Clay was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder-for-hire of Randy Martindale.

The Illinois General Assembly has passed several major bills in the last few days of its lame-duck session.

Two of the bills, one on an income tax increase and the other on abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, were the focus of a press conference held today by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Here are some highlights of Quinn's comments:

(via Flickr/jglazer75)

UPDATE 3:03 p.m. Jan. 11, 2011:

The Associated Press is reporting that the Illinois Senate has voted to abolish the death penalty in that state.

The Chicago Tribune also reports the following:

The ban on executions goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who must sign the legislation for it to become law. During last fall's campaign, Quinn said he supports "capital punishment when applied carefully and fairly," but also backs the 10-year-old moratorium on executions.

The Senate voted 32-25 to approve the ban, with two members voting present.

 

UPDATE 1:13 p.m. Jan. 11, 2011:

The Illinois Senate is debating the death penalty bill this afternoon on the floor. You can listen or watch the debate live here.

Earlier Story:

Illinois has moved one step closer to a vote on abolishing the death penalty in the state.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee voted this morning to advance a bill to repeal the death penalty, setting up a probable full Senate vote later today.

The bill passed in the House last week in a quick re-vote when the first vote failed the bill, 59-58.

The Chicago Tribune also has more information on the history of the death penalty in the state, via legislation and key cases in their story today.

 

(via Flickr/jglazer75)

UPDATE Jan. 6, 2011 6:47 p.m. :   Via the Associated Press, The Illinois House, reversing an earlier tally, has voted 60-54 to repeal the death penalty. The bill now goes to the Illinois Senate.

A decades-long effort to abolish the death penalty in Illinois has fallen one vote shy of House approval.

House members voted 59-58 Thursday on abolition. The bill needed 60 votes for approval.

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