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MADP 2021 Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Missouri

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) publishes this annual report to inform fellow citizens and elected officials about developments and related issues associated with the state’s death penalty in 2021 and recent years. 2021 has shown Missouri is an outlier state in a nation moving away from capital punishment. Two factors influence this trend: a social shift away from excessive punishment and growing awareness of capital punishment’s flaws, including wrongful convictions, racial disparities, and enormous expense of capital prosecutions. Since 1973, 186 individuals have been exonerated from death row. Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) found that for every 8.3 executions, there is one wrongfully convicted person exonerated.(1) 2021 has also shown everyday Missourians do not view death as an appropriate punishment. No Missouri jury has voted for a death sentence since 2013.

This report includes information about the following death penalty developments in Missouri:

  • Nationally, the use of the death penalty remained near historic lows in 2021, according to Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Just five states and the federal government conducted executions in 2021. Texas and the U.S. government each executed three people, Oklahoma executed two, and three additional states — Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri — each executed one person. The eleven executions carried out during the year were the fewest since 1988.(2)

  • At the end of 2021, 19 individuals are living under death sentences in Missouri. Sixty-three percent of persons on death row come from a cluster of four counties in Missouri, six from St. Louis County, two from Jefferson County, two from Boone County, and two from Cole County. Of the 19 individuals on death row in Missouri, six people are Black, and 13 are white.

  • There were no new death sentences in Missouri in 2021. At the beginning of 2021, there were 19 pending capital cases in Missouri. Three were resolved with non-death sentence outcomes leaving 17 pending capital cases by the end of the year. There are 113 counties and 1 independent City in the state of Missouri. Pending capital cases originated from 12 of Missouri’s counties.

  • Ernest Lee Johnson was executed on October 5th, 2021, at 6:11 pm at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic Correctional Center (ERDCC). Johnson was the 91st person executed by the state of Missouri since 1976. Missouri carried out this wrongful execution allowing the courts to roll back the definition of intellectual disability and legislate a new medically inappropriate and unconstitutionally restrictive definition without allowing a hearing.(3) They did so in defiance of the United States Constitution under Atkins v. Virginia (2002) and pleas of a broad coalition of supporters, including interfaith leaders, clinical experts, human rights leaders, current and former politicians, and over 30,000 people who signed petitions asking for clemency for Ernest Johnson.(4)

Press Contact: Elyse Max at

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