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MO executions buck national trend | Rooted in lynching | Reggie, Joe, and Shane Claiborne

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

The latest on Missouri’s death penalty: We were successful in August when we petitioned Gov. Eric Greitens to grant a stay of execution for Marcellus Williams, but please stay engaged as Marcellus is still on death row and DNA evidence proving his innocence has yet to be heard in court. Read more about the board of inquiry here and get a recap of the case here.

Nationally, executions had an uptick in 2017, a detour in what has been a decline in the past decadeMissouri bucked the national trend with one execution, but that’s still one too many – when Missouri executed Mark Christesen in January, he still had outstanding appeals in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. There were other issues with his case, including his attorneys missing a deadline.

Life was returned in two cases this month: jurors voted for life in the federal death penalty case of Ulysses S. Jones; and prosecutors returned with a plea bargain for Nicholas Sheley, who plead for forgiveness. But we received a new death sentence when a judge in Dent County sentenced former sheriff deputy and corrections officer Marvin Rice to death. Her decision overrode 11 out of 12 jurors who wanted life. Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled judicial override as unconstitutional, with Justice Sotomayor stating “the 6th Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death. A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough.”

The roots of Missouri’s death penalty reach back to its high concentration of lynchings: an interactive map from Equal Justice Initiative shows a strong overlap, as Missouri had the second highest number of lynchings outside the South. The report from EJI explores lynchings in America as racial terrorism and how our national failure to establish memorials commemorating the thousands of African-Americans killed demonstrates our failure to value black lives and acknowledge the truth of our racial history.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty talks with death row exonerees Reggie Griffin and Joe Amrine in St. Louis at Death is Not Justice: A Conversation with Two Death Row Exonerees on November 4th. We also tour with Shane Claiborne in Springfield on November 18 and 19th. Hope to see you there!

We are now on Amazon Smile so reward points from your purchases can go to supporting our mission! Type “Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty” in the search box here to get started.

Our Voices project is still in stock – buy it directly from us hereVoices from the Edge: The Impact of Missouri’s Death Penalty on Victims, Correctional Staff & Families of the Executed is a collection of powerful testimonies of people directly impacted by the death penalty, including the family members of murder victims, correctional staff, and families of the executed and exonerated. Each person’s experience demonstrates the complicated, devastating impact that Missouri’s death penalty has on real people.

You can become a part of our Pen Pal Program anytime! If you’d like to be an Outside Pen Pal to someone on death row, email us at You must be 18 or older.

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