The American Bar Association finds major flaws with the use of the death penalty in Missouri.
To assess fairness and accuracy in Missouri’s death penalty system, the Missouri Death Penalty Assessment Team researched the twelve issues that the American Bar Association identified as central to the analysis of the fairness and accuracy of a state’s capital punishment system. The Missouri Death Penalty Assessment Report devotes a chapter to each of the following areas: (1) overview of the state’s death penalty; (2) collection, preservation, and testing of DNA and other types of evidence; (3) law enforcement identifications and interrogations; (4) crime laboratories and medical examiner offices; (5) prosecutorial professionalism; (6) defense services; (7) the direct appeal process; (8) state post-conviction proceedings; (9) clemency; (10) capital jury instructions; (11) judicial independence and vigilance; (12) treatment of racial and ethnic minorities; and (13) mental retardation and mental illness.1 Chapters begin with an introduction to provide a national perspective of the issues addressed by each chapter, followed by a “Factual Discussion” of the relevant laws and practices in Missouri.2 The final section of each chapter, titled “Analysis,” examines the extent to which Missouri is in compliance with the ABA Protocols.
While members of the Missouri Assessment Team have varying perspectives on the death penalty, all team members agreed to use the ABA Protocols as a framework through which to examine the death penalty in Missouri. It is the Assessment Team’s unanimous view, however, that so long as Missouri imposes the death penalty, it must do so in a manner that guarantees fairness and reduces, to the extent possible, the risk of executing the innocent.