Bill abolishing the death penalty in Missouri to get a hearing in Jefferson City this week
The death penalty is dying in the United States.
One by one, states have decided that the financial and moral costs associated with killing prisoners in the name of is own people are not worth it.
For states that stand resolutely behind this method of justice, the courts have shown signs of trepidation with the death penalty. The haphazard methods used, the at-times poorly trained people who carry it out and the government secretiveness that enshrouds the process have raised serious questions from the Supreme Court on down about whether the death penalty remains legal.
Missouri has been one of those states that has kept at capital punishment, a place where inmates have been executed at a quickening pace since 2013, despite concerns about how the state administers the ultimate punishment.
Some lawmakers in Missouri appear to be breaking with the pro-death-penalty climate in the Show-Me State.
Senate Bill 816 goes before the Senate General Laws and Pensions Committee for a hearing on Tuesday. Its sponsor is Sen. Paul Wieland, a Republican from Jefferson City. His legislation has bi-partisan support; its co-sponsors include Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph), Sen. Gina Walsh (D-North St. Louis County) and Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur).
A similar bill, introduced by Webster Groves House Democrat Jeanne Kirkton, exists in the House, but hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing.
Missouri executed six inmates last year. Grouped together, Missouri, Texas and Georgia accounted for 86 percent of the executions that occurred in 2015, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Meanwhile, the DPIC says that 49 new death sentences were imposed in 2015, the lowest number since the 1970s and a 33 percent decline from 2014.
Despite bi-partisan support on SB 816, its passage remains far from a sure thing. There are many reasons for that, chief among which sits behind a desk in the governor’s office. Jay Nixon, a Democrat in his last year as Missouri Governor, has tended toward supporting the death penalty during his time both as Missouri Attorney General and governor.