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1st Jury Death Sentence in Missouri in 9 Years

(St. Charles County) -- On Friday night, 4/1/22, after six hours of deliberation, twelve jurors in St. Charles County voted unanimously to recommend a death sentence for Marvin Rice for the 2011 murder of Annette Durham. In 2019 the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the death penalty and last week marked the sentencing phase retrial and the first unanimous jury to vote for death in almost a decade. Mr. Rice’s death sentence hinged on just one aggravating factor - that Ms. Durham’s murder was committed during the commission of another crime, the second-degree murder of Steven Strotkamp.

Marvin Rice is a US Army Veteran, Former Dent County Police Officer, and Corrections Officer. He has struggled with mental health issues since his time in the service. He was taking 17 medications due to a brain tumor and other physical and mental health issues at the time of the offense, affecting his impulse control and causing paranoia.

A 2015 report from Death Penalty Information Center titled Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty examines the use of the intersection of severe mental illness and the death penalty and those who have served. “Recognizing the difficult challenges many veterans face after their service should warrant a close examination of the punishment of death for those wounded warriors who have committed capital crimes. Moreover, a better understanding of the disabilities some veterans face could lead to a broader conversation about the wide use of the death penalty for others suffering from severe mental illness.”

Mr. Rice is someone deserving of compassion, not death. Over a dozen individuals testified on behalf of the defense. Witnesses include three Forensic Psychiatrists, Mr. Rice’s children, childhood friends, and others who have witnessed his service as a law enforcement officer and in the Army. On Thursday, jurors heard from Marvin Rice’s childhood friends. Mr. Shawn Hines stated that the man who committed the crimes in 2011 was not the same person he grew up with. Mr. Jim Bassett grew up with Mr. Rice in Elk Creek, MO, and he told the jury, “life was simpler when bad people do bad things, and good people do good things. I don’t know how to withdraw from a good person who does a bad thing.”

Mr. Rice is scheduled for sentencing later this month with Judge Pelikan in Division 7 of the St. Charles County Court, but we know that this will not be closure for the co-victims and families. Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will continue to follow Mr. Rice’s case throughout the decades of appeals that lie ahead. There are currently 14 pending capital cases in Missouri, four of them scheduled for 2022, and two of those are in St. Charles County.

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