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May 15, 2009

Lots of dynamic death penalty debates in Missouri, while other states execute

This new article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, headlined "Legal challenges over, Missouri plans to resume executions next week," provides details on the latest death penalty developments in the Show Me State.  Here are a few of the interesting details:

After more than three years of wrangling over how Missouri's executioners should deliver the lethal injection — and who is qualified to do it — the state is gearing up for the death penalty again. With questions about the state's method of capital punishment settled, the debate has shifted to whether the first man in line should be spared.

Dennis Skillicorn, 49, is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for a role in the 1994 murder of Richard Drummond. With appeals running out, Skillicorn's last hope may be Gov. Jay Nixon, who holds the power to convert the death sentence to life in prison.

In an interview Tuesday at the prison in Bonne Terre, Skillicorn insisted that he did not kill Drummond. He said that his death would cause suffering for his wife and that society would benefit from letting him live. Many agree. Supporters and even a prominent legislator are asking Nixon to spare him. Some prison workers and volunteers plan a demonstration for him Monday in Jefferson City. They say there is substantial doubt that Skillicorn was responsible for the murder — and that he has transformed into a force for good.

But Skillicorn has been implicated in four murders over time, leading others to insist his recent deeds don't matter. State Rep. Bob Nance, a Republican from Excelsior Springs, Mo., Drummond's hometown, said Skillicorn is a career killer and represents the very reason Missouri has a death penalty....

Skillicorn runs one program to help strengthen prisoners' families and another to care for sick and dying inmates. He edits a national magazine, Compassion, that has awarded scholarships for relatives of crime victims. One prison guard calls him a "calming influence." A chaplain said Skillicorn made prison safer and said taking his life would be "counterproductive."

Skillicorn's lawyer has argued, unsuccessfully, in federal court that Nixon, as the former Missouri attorney general, could be biased against clemency. A spokesman for the governor said he would be thorough and fair.

Earlier this week, state Rep. Bill Deeken, R-Jefferson City, asked that the death penalty be put on hold for two years while a commission studies whether it is administered fairly and properly. That measure failed 95-64.

Majority Leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, urged Nixon to grant clemency, saying there was "reasonable doubt" about Skillicorn's role in Drummond's slaying. But before the Drummond killing, Skillicorn was already on parole for murder. In that case, in 1980, his partner in a burglary killed the occupant of a home. Skillicorn did more than 13 years in prison.

Meanwhile, as this new AP article reports, two other states went forward with executions yesterday:

A man convicted of battering his girlfriend's 8-year-old son and stuffing the body in a freezer was put to death Thursday in Oklahoma, while a man in Alabama was executed for fatally stabbing a mother of six.

May 15, 2009 at 06:55 AM | Permalink

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Excellant article. A very good coice for this blog.

Posted by: mpb | May 16, 2009 9:47:47 AM

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