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St. Louis Observer - Editors Note

(St. Louis Observer, May 13, 2022)

Editors Note

"Last week in St. Louis - for the first time in a really, really long time - our City had zero pending death penalty cases.

In other words, we have become a death penalty-free city - and we should all be celebrating. This is a moment in time where abolition advocates have won a hard-fought victory in the City of St. Louis, and this further is a moment that we can sustain.

At the same time, we fully acknowledge that elected prosecutor, Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner, has retained the power to abolish the death penalty in St. Louis City since the day she took office. We recognize that, instead of shifting prosecuting to obtain a life sentence, her administration instead first attempted to bring in the notorious Attorney General’s Office to continue her quest for the death penalty. And we remember, not too long ago, when her office asked federal prosecutors to investigate and file their own charges. Federal prosecutors announced in late March that they would not seek the death penalty, effectively removing the moral and ethical dilemma from Gardner’s plate.

This well-earned win did not come through Gardner’s actions, but rather the intervention from federal prosecutors. Nevertheless - we are all here in this pivotal moment, and we can move forward together to maintain zero death penalty cases in St. Louis.

Since 2000, the State of Missouri has executed 51 people, in our names as voters and on our behalf. That’s at least two state-sponsored deaths - scheduled murders - every year for the last 22 years, and more executions are expected to be scheduled.

We live in a state where nearly half of all pending death row cases were obtained by a verifiably corrupt prosecutor, but hope is not lost for the 15 men waiting for their execution date. Prosecuting attorneys, elected to represent the people within their judicial circuits, hold a lot of power, including the ability to re-examine the integrity of the evidence and convictions by their predecessors against persons sentenced to death. And given what’s at stake, we would argue that every circuit attorney is obligated to do so. Conviction integrity units continue to rise in popularity as true progressive prosecutors see their value in restoring public trust in an otherwise dysfunctional criminal legal system.

In the meantime, we continue to hope that Gardner will step into her power and decline to seek the death penalty against defendants in her jurisdiction."

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