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Pending Capital Case Update 3-16-22

There are currently fifteen pending capital cases in Missouri. Half of the cases are in just three jurisdictions: 3 in St. Charles, 2 in St. Louis City, and 2 in Howell County.

There is nothing more arbitrary within our criminal legal system than the death penalty.

In January 2022, 2 of the 9 individuals involved in the murder of Sarah Pasco in Lawrence County, were sentenced. Initially, Lawrence County Prosecutors requested the death penalty for all 9 individuals, setting off a bombshell of concern within the legal community in Missouri regarding right to proper counsel and amount of undue strain on the under-resourced public defenders.

Gary Hunter and Diona Parks ultimately plead to Murder in the 2nd Degree, an outcome that has become increasingly familiar among pending capital cases in the state. Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter eventually cited that, “It’s extremely expensive on the court,” and is currently working out plea deals for all the others charged.

The death penalty has long been used as a tool of power and coercion for plea deals that ultimately result in individuals serving long term, or life sentences.

The cases of Gary Hunter, Diona Parks and other co-defendants in this incident highlight the abuse of prosecutorial power and the strain prosecutors inflict on the criminal legal system by pursuing death sentences as a means to secure harsh sentences.

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