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Carnahan won't revise death penalty unless evidence is found

February 22, 2000
By: Danel Aguirre
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1225, HB 1226, HB 1887, SB 838

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan has rejected the idea of a moratorium on the death penalty, although he said he understands why the governor Illinois imposed a moratorium.

Carnahan said that unlike Illinois, nobody sitting on death row has been found innocent.

"That's very damning evidence that has been developed by those Northwest University students and the professor," Carnahan said. "If that were to develop here, that would have a very great impact."

The Missouri governor said that the situation in Missouri "is very different" from the one in Illinois.

Carnahan, who commuted a death sentence at the request of Pope John Paul during his visit to Missouri last year, said he remains a supporter of the death penalty and that he believes it is being "fairly administrated" in the state.

The governor's comments came on the eve of a committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday on proposals to abolish capital punishment or impose a moratorium.

One proposal would impose a moratorium similar to that in Illinois. Executions would be held up for two years while a study of the death penalty was conducted.

The other proposal would abolish capital punishment.

"I think it's time to stop killing people," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Schilling, D-Springfield.

Contrary to the governor's arguments, Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Boone County, said she thinks there is "good evidence the death penalty is not applied fairly."

Wilson said she supports Schilling's proposal to abolish the penalty. The death penalty does not prevent crime and is not effective, she said.

"With the momentum from Illinois, we should be re-examining what we do up here," she said.

Missouri's death row houses 81 convicts--almost half non-white.

Since 1989, when capital punishment was reinstituted in Missouri, 41 inmates have been put to death -- giving Missouri the fourth highest execution total for the nation.

Five inmates hail from Boone County: Gary L. Roll, Bernard Rhodes, Ernest Lee Johnson, Earl Ringo Jr. and Russell E. Bucklew. They are soon scheduled to die.

Wilson said she doesn't think the death penalty gives a good image of Missouri. "It makes us less human," she said.