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“Shameful” New Evidence of Racial and Geographic Arbitrariness of Missouri Executions

In response to new research released today by Political Science Professor Frank Baumgartner revealing significant racial, gender, and geographic disparities with regards to who is executed in Missouri, former North Kansas City Police Chief Glenn Ladd, stated that the information points to the fundamental arbitrariness of capital punishment. Baumgartner’s research indicates that a majority of the state’s 80 executions (between 1976 and 2014) come from just three, or 2.6%, of Missouri’s 114 counties and the independent city of St. Louis. As noted by Justice Breyers’ dissent in Glossip v. Gross, “Geography… plays an important role in determining who is sentenced to death.” Ladd observes,

“Dr. Baumgartner’s research, regarding the death penalty in the State of Missouri is interesting to me. I was aware that Missouri was a state that executed more people than most states, however, I was totally unaware of the disparity within Missouri counties. Obviously, these inequities compound other aspects of the illogical and unreasonable applications of the death penalty. In the interest of justice, this evidence should lead us to the suspension of all executions.”

Glenn L. Ladd

Chief of Police (Ret), North Kansas City

NAACP leader Rev. Elston K. McCowan, who has been active in responding to the stark racial bias uncovered in the Department of Justice’s report in Ferguson, regards the work as additional evidence of the fundamental unfairness of the current system. “Injustice in every aspect of the criminal justice system including the death penalty regarding African-Americans, other people of color and the poor, is not news to the NAACP. This data helps the majority community become aware of the discriminatory treatment their fellow Americans are experiencing. This is our reality and it is shameful.”

Rev. Elston K. McCowan

MO NAACP Prison Committee & Criminal Justice Chair

Baumgartner’s research also demonstrates vast and shocking racial inequalities: homicides involving white victims are seven times more likely to result in an execution than those involving black victims. “Racial bias in the administration of capital punishment cannot endure in a just society,” MADP State Coordinator Staci Pratt stated. “Our criminal justice system should treat all people equally, regardless of where they live or the color of their skin. In reality, Missouri’s death penalty is applied unevenly and unfairly, even for similar crimes. Some people are sentenced to die simply because of the county they live in or the racial status of their victim. A system that is so arbitrary should not be allowed to choose who lives and who dies.” Eminent legal scholars, such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Breyer, remind us that “the arbitrary imposition of punishment is the antithesis of the rule of law.”

In response to the study, community leaders urge Governor Nixon to take this opportunity to stop executions so that a full investigation into systemic bias can be conducted.

For More information Contact: Staci Pratt State Coordinator, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (816) 931-4177

Glenn L. Ladd Chief of Police (Ret), North Kansas City (816) 809-5911

Rev. Elston K. McCowan MO NAACP Prison Committee & Criminal Justice Chair (314) 496-7861

In addition, please note:


To schedule an interview with Professor Baumgartner, please call 510-393-4549 or email His full bio is available here:

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