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March 2, 2012

New ABA mega-study doesn't call for moratorium on executions in Missouri

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Missouri death-penalty cases should be reduced, study says," the ABA has released another massive study of a state's death penalty system and — surprise, surprise — it does not like all of what it sees.  Here are the basics:

Missouri should narrow the kinds of cases subject to the death penalty so that only the most serious murders are eligible, according a two-year study sponsored by the American Bar Association.  The state also should prohibit the execution of the severely mentally ill and do a better job of preserving forensic evidence such as DNA samples.

The study, which does not take a position on whether the death penalty should be legal, was released Thursday and conducted by a panel of law professors, private attorneys and federal judges who had been nominated to the bench by Republican and Democratic presidents.

They said serious problems with the death penalty in Missouri must be addressed to ensure fairness in the system and prevent an innocent person from losing his or her life. “It is the ultimate penalty, and we’ve got to get it right every time,” said Douglas Copeland, a St. Louis attorney who served on the panel.

The full ABA study of Missouri's capital system is available at this link.  As the press report indicates and as my post title notes, an interesting aspect of this Missouri report seems to be that the ABA team has not called for a moratorium on executions in the Show Me state:

The report is not entirely critical of Missouri’s death penalty system. It praises Missouri for having a state-run public defender’s system, crime labs that are accredited, and for maintaining an independent judiciary.

Missouri is the 10th state for which the American Bar Association has released an analysis of its death penalty system.  After a similar study in Kentucky, the ABA recommended in December that lawmakers put a moratorium on the death penalty until a host of problems and inconsistencies could be fixed.

It did not go that far in Missouri, a point that was praised Thursday by the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.  “They obviously realize that, while there is always room for improvement, Missouri’s criminal justice system is fundamentally sound,” president Bob McCulloch said in a statement.

I have commented before concerning the ABA assessment reports in other states that I fear these mega-documents, though containing lots of useful information about a state's experiences with the death penalty, have not always been presented in ways that could have maximum practical impact.  But, as I have now learned from direct experience with Ohio's new Joint Task Force examining the death penalty in the Buckeye state, these mega ABA reports can and general will help provide a benchmark and framework for any later capital reform discussions within a state.

Prior posts on some prior ABA reports and related issues:

March 2, 2012 at 10:17 AM | Permalink


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re: "Missouri death-penalty cases should be reduced, study says"
re:: capital reform discussions within a state--Berman

2X as many Americans believe the death penalty is not imposed often enough as too often—that obviously covers most states--so should THIS not be the goal of "reform"? (Gallup, 2010-2011)

"The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government"—T. Jeff

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 2, 2012 11:53:19 AM

Arfarf: "The potentially troubling question is why the others didn't get death."

(mytemp001): "If you want to use stats go ahead. Only one caveat: if there is a [bias] it should be corrected to make sure more cold-blooded murders die, not less." Charlotte Observer

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 2, 2012 11:54:09 AM

Congratulations on not writing it off - as you did the Ohio ABA study a few years back.

Apparently the info provided in all of the ABA studies is not of the foremost significance to you, Professor Berman.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 2, 2012 1:24:19 PM

As you did the Ohio ABA study a few years back

Posted by: Thomas Sabo Ireland | Mar 5, 2012 2:14:42 AM

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