Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Death Penalty was an issue brought up in Tonight's Great Debate!

Bill to repeal death penalty moves to Senate floor.
riverside of capitol

Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, made headlines last week for his legislation that would repeal the death penalty in Missouri and now, he’s made history.
SB 816 has taken the next step to becoming law by moving onto the Senate floor after passing out of committee by a 4-2 vote in committee Tuesday after it was taken up again after the committee tabled the issue last week.

It is the first time a death penalty repeal bill has moved onto the floor of the Senate.

“One of my motivations [to run for office] was defending human life,” Wieland said. “As a pro-life person, I needed to be congruent with my conscience.”

While Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, the chair of the General Laws and Pensions Committee, was receptive to the idea, alluding to the racial disparity of death sentences, the other Republicans in the committee were not. Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles, expressed his belief that some people were too dangerous to be left alive in prison, lest they do harm to their fellow inmates or prison guards.

“Someone executed will never murder again,” he commented.

Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Washington, believed that the death penalty was an effective and necessary deterrent to heinous crime and rejected testimony that the criminal justice system did not do its job.

“I don’t think we have a broken criminal justice system that’s the problem,” Schatz said. “It’s a morally bankrupt society.”

Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, an avid opponent of the death penalty, disagreed with Schatz’ take.

“I’ve fought this fight since I got elected,” he said. “If the death penalty was actually a deterrent, we wouldn’t be executing anyone, would we?”

Many witnesses testified in support of the bill, including the Missouri Catholic Conference, the NAACP and the Missouri Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Each had their own concerns with capital punishment from the fact that it may be racist institution, that they could be executing innocent people that may be exonerated by new evidence, or that they simply don’t trust the government to put people to death.

Jennifer Bukowsky, a Columbia-based attorney that has worked as a public defender, said that her experience with the Missouri criminal justice system made her want to “hit the pause button” on such punishments because mistakes could be made in sentencing people to death. If the state carried out on those mistakes, Bukowsky argues that “history will not treat us kindly.”

Public defenders are inadequately funded and we can’t have enough confidence in the integrity of the results of our system to kill,” she said Tuesday. “Just because a person’s in prison doesn’t mean the case is solved.”

Next, conservatives and libertarians from across the United States are uniting against the death penalty more than ever before, but our work is not done. We plan on publishing a list of state and local leaders who have signed our Statement of Support to End the Death Penalty, and we want you to be a part of it.
Are you a conservative or a libertarian who has held a political leadership position (such as a YAL chapter chairman, GOP treasurer, tea party founder, conservative state representative, etc.)? If so, then please consider adding your name to our Statement of Support to End the Death Penalty here.
When we release the entire list, it will be further proof that the national dialogue is changing, and the tide is turning against the death penalty.
We have come to the conclusion that the death penalty does not work and can’t be made to work, not in spite of our conservative principles, but because of them. There are many reasons why growing numbers of conservatives are questioning the death penalty. Some of us are concerned that instead of making us safer, capital punishment has proven to be a costly and ineffective government program. Others of us are concerned that the death penalty makes too many mistakes. Still others are concerned that the death penalty has no place in a culture seeking to promote life. In light of its track record, we call on our fellow conservatives to reexamine the death penalty and demonstrate the leadership needed to end this failed policy.

Thank you for your support, and please share our statement with your conservative, politically-active friends and family members.
Exonerate Kenneth Clair: DNA Evidence Points to Someone Else.
On November 15, 1984, 5-year-old Jerrod Hessling witnessed the beating, rape, and stabbing death of his babysitter. When asked to describe the killer, he said, without hesitation, that it was a white male. Another child present during the murder saw a white man’s tattooed arm reach inside the house to open a sliding glass door.
Yet somehow, the lawyers in the case determined that Kenneth Clair, a dark-skinned African-American homeless man who had been squatting next door, was the killer. When Jerrod saw him on the witness stand and insisted they had the wrong man, the prosecution chalked it up to youth and trauma and pursued the death penalty for Kenneth Clair. To this day, 31 years later, Mr. Clair sits on San Quentin’s death row, awaiting his execution date.
[UPDATE: I was recently made aware that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals secretly overturned Mr. Clair’s death sentence and changed it to life in prison without parole. This is mixed news -- his life is spared, but he no longer has the right to an attorney under habeas corpus laws, and he has not been granted a retrial. That means the exonerating DNA evidence will NOT be seen in court. We now have to focus our energy on asking Governor Jerry Brown and California State Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the case and exonerate Kenneth Clair for this crime he did not commit. It is Mr. Clair’s only remaining chance for justice. ]
But that’s not the biggest bombshell in this case -- in 2008, forensic testing revealed that DNA found on the murder victim did not match Clair’s. DNA taken from a glove found at the scene also did not match. It matches another individual, but the Orange County District Attorney insists that “confidentiality is required” concerning this evidence, and for 7 years now, the identity of the person whose DNA does match the swab has remained a secret.
In the interest of justice, we must call on the Orange County DA and California state lawmakers to demand that the DNA evidence be turned over to Kenneth Clair’s defense.
Since his conviction, Clair has struggled with ineffective counsel. He wanted his lawyers to work at investigating the crime, rather than simply trying to free him from death row, but they never did. His plea for substitute counsel even made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, and he did eventually receive a switch of counsel. Finally, he is being represented by people who are dedicated to his exoneration.
But their hands are tied without this crucial DNA evidence, and more of Clair’s precious life is wasting away in prison as they fight to obtain it.