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May 19, 2009

"Executions Debated as Missouri Plans One"

The title of this post is the headline of this article from today's New York Times, which provides an effective primer on the state of death penalty debate in Missouri as the state gears up to execute convicted murderer Dennis Skillicorn early Wednesday morning.  Here are a few excerpts:

Officials in this state are preparing to execute a prisoner for the first time since 2005, when criticisms about the state’s lethal injection method emerged and one doctor who carried out executions acknowledged being dyslexic and sometimes “improvising” when it came to the amounts of chemicals he administered.  

That doctor will no longer take part, and a United States Supreme Court ruling last year upheld a lethal injection procedure similar to the one Missouri will use, but some lawmakers, including some prominent Republicans, say they have lingering questions about the state’s system of capital punishment.

The focus of those questions has shifted some, no longer centering on the method of execution but turning toward which prisoners are condemned and which are not, and whether those choices make sense.  “I still favor the death penalty, but I just want to make sure we put the right people to death,” said State Representative Bill Deeken, a Republican, explaining why he last week proposed delaying the death penalty for two years more until a study can determine whether it is meted out fairly in this state. “At this point, we just do not know.”...

In the final days of the state legislative session in Jefferson City last week, a death penalty moratorium was rejected, but the House, which Republicans control, passed a provision calling for a commission to study the question.....House leaders say their chamber’s vote sent a signal to Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat in his first term, who has yet to issue a decision on Mr. Skillicorn’s request for clemency.

People here are deeply split over Mr. Skillicorn.  His supporters say that while he participated in robbing Mr. Drummond and was convicted of murder, another man (now also awaiting execution) was the one who fired the gun that killed Mr. Drummond.  They point to Mr. Skillicorn’s work in prison leading a hospice program, editing a magazine for death row inmates, and, in the view of even some prison workers, helping to create a calmer, safer atmosphere behind bars....

But State Representative Bob Nance of Excelsior Springs, the community not far from Kansas City where Mr. Drummond had lived, said Mr. Skillicorn “should hardly be held up as a poster child for what’s wrong with the death penalty.”  Mr. Skillicorn was implicated for his involvement in other murders — though never, he says, as the gunman.  He was convicted of second-degree murder in a 1979 burglary with accomplices in which a farmer was killed.  And in the days after Mr. Drummond’s death, he and his accomplice went on a cross- country spree and, the authorities say, his accomplice shot and killed an Arizona couple. Mr. Skillicorn pleaded guilty to murder in that case.

May 19, 2009 at 07:37 AM | Permalink

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Comments

When the State of Missouri kills this guy the only thing standing between the State and the act of murder is semantics. After the killing, thousands of people will then justify their own thoughts of killing someone they hate, someone who deserves it. A few million Missourians will go to church the Sunday following the murder and not one preacher will explain the exceptions to: "Thou Shall Not Kill". The killing is in the hands of Governor Nixon who has the absolute power of pardon. What part of "not" does thou not get, Mr. Nixon? This killing is in the name of all Missourians. I am glad that I am not one of them.

Posted by: mpb | May 20, 2009 5:20:27 AM

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