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Legislative Black Caucus and NAACP Seek Racial Justice in Death Penalty Cases

AMENDED NEWS RELEASE–Monday Feb. 22 Press Conference

NAACP Calling for Passage of Racial Justice Act & Other Actions for Equality

Contact: Nimrod Chapel, Jr, NAACP, 844-NAACP-HELP

Staci Pratt, MADP, 816-931-4177

A news conference advocating for the Racial Justice Act (RJA, SB

758; HB __) plus other measures to counter discrimination and promote equality in Missouri– will take place Monday, Feb. 22 at 3:15 pm in House Committee Hearing Room 2, in the basement of the State Capitol. The conference is being sponsored bythe Moral Agenda for Missouri (MAM), Missouri NAACP State Conference, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) and other groups.  Nimrod Chapel, Jr., says “Missouri is in the midst of a Constitutional Crisis – where all citizens are not being treated the same.  It is illegal, immoral, and unconscionable.”

Among those speaking will be: Jeremy Collins of Durham, North Carolina, a leader with the state’s Moral Mondays’ movement, Voting Rights and Criminal Justice Fellow with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and a Board member of Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation (MVFR); RJA leaders Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-KC) and Rep. Tommie Pearson (D-St. Louis); Nimrod Chapel, Jr., President Missouri NAACP State Conference; and Staci Pratt, MADP State Coordinator.

SB 758 and the House version Rep. Ellington introduced would require the Missouri Supreme Court, during their proportionality review, to consider whether race played a significant factor in the decision to seek or impose the death penalty. If the court determines that to be the case, the measure directs judges to commute an individual’s death sentence to life without parole.

This measure is crucial to having justice be more even-handedly applied in our state, as academic and journalistic reports demonstrate significant racial bias with the system. For example: nearly 77%, 66 of the 86 people executed in Missouri those individuals were convicted of murdering a White victim, even though Blacks comprised 60 % of all homicide victims in the state over the past four decades.  Chapel also says “there are crippling racial disparities in traffic stops as indicated by 15 years of evidence.”  The new Missouri vehicle stops report will be released March 1, 2016. “The time for justice and equality – is now.” says Chapel.

A July 2015 report also found that the murder of a White victim was seven times more likely to result in an execution than those involving Black victims. Additionally, Missouri homicides involving White female victims, are nearly 14 times more likely to result in an execution than the murders of Black male victims, according to the report conducted by University of North Carolina researchers.

As Rev. Elston McCowan states, “The lack of racial diversity among Missouri prosecutors–those choosing whether to seek the death penalty is deeply troubling. Of the state’s 114 prosecutors, 99% are White.That level of institutional racism undermines potential public support and helps explain why Blacks disproportionately are sentenced to death and executed.”

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