FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2016
Contact: Staci Pratt at (816) 931-4177 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For national trends, contact: Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center. He may be reached through Anne Holsinger at (202) 289-4022 or email@example.com.
DEATH PENALTY CONTINUES HISTORIC DECLINE IN MISSOURI, AS BUDGET CRISIS LOOMS
(Kansas City, Missouri). The historic decline of the death penalty in Missouri and the United States overall continued in 2016, with death sentences, executions and juror support for capital punishment continuing to fall. For the third consecutive year, Missouri juries imposed no new death sentences. Missouri’s death row houses 26 inmates, the lowest number since the year 2000. In addition, Missouri’s single execution in 2016 stands in sharp contrast to the ten executions which occurred in 2014 and the six executions which took place in 2015. A report released today by Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty titled Missouri’s Death Penalty in 2016: The Year in Review provides a year-end compilation of death penalty data for the state of Missouri.
Missouri trends parallel national figures. According to the year-end publication released by the Death Penalty Information Center, 2016 saw the fewest death sentences imposed in the modern era of U.S. capital punishment, dating back to the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision declaring existing death penalty statues unconstitutional. In the United States, new death sentences fell 39% from last year’s already 40 year low and executions reached their lowest level in 25 years.
In Missouri, where capital prosecutions continue, they are geographically isolated to a few counties. As of August of 2016, St. Louis City had five pending capital trials, making it the greatest potential source of new death sentences. Kim Gardner was then elected to office as the first African-American to sit as the St. Louis Circuit prosecutor, on a campaign based around reform and culture change in the office. Of Missouri’s 115 elected prosecutors, 99% are White. Similarly, around the country, five prosecutors who acted as outliers in frequently seeking the death penalty were replaced with reform prosecutors who are likely to use it more sparingly.
“Declining use of the death penalty is significant in our state,” MADP Executive Director Staci Pratt observed. “Particularly in light of our budget woes, we need to carefully consider how the state could use the $143 million we have spent on capital punishment by investing in proven public safety measures. As a practical matter, the death penalty is on its way out and the need for fiscal responsibility demands a new approach.” Jake Buxton, Chair of the State Federation of College Republicans for Missouri shares these concerns, “heinous criminals deserve swift justice, but it’s difficult to justify a government program that siphons millions of dollars from Missouri taxpayers despite the lack of evidence that it deters crime.” Please click the link below to access Missouri’s Death Penalty in 2016: The Year in Review.