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Should Missouri continue enforcing the death penalty?

As some of our readers may or may not know, Missouri reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Between 1989 and 2012, our state executed 68 inmates, many of whom had been convicted of murder. Recently, a man by the name of Walter T. Storey was added to this list when he was executed this month for a 1990 murder.

But as so many of our Columbia readers know, conviction of a crime does not necessarily always point to guilt. As we have seen in other cases, the mishandling of cases and/or the addition of DNA evidence has led to appeals that have successfully been able to prove a person's innocence. Here in Missouri, this has only resulted in three people being released from death row.

Because of the finality of death and the fact that some people on death row could be there wrongfully, we ask our readers to consider this question: should Missouri continue enforcing the death penalty?

Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer. That's because there are two very opposing sides to the issue. On the one hand are those who stand opposed to alleged criminals such as prosecutors and the victim's loved ones. As was shown by a statement made in the Storey case by the victim's brother, some people see an execution as compensation for the pain and suffering they endure after a violent crime has been committed.

On the other hand, however, we have people who are opposed to the death penalty, such as defense attorneys and civil rights activists. People who oppose the death penalty point to a 2014 study that suggests "at least 4 percent of all people who receive the death penalty are innocent." If any one of those innocent people were executed, would justice really be served?

By presenting the case of Walter T. Storey, we are not trying to insinuate guilt or innocence but rather highlight what is at stake when a person is sentenced to death row. The death penalty only gives a person a relatively small window of time to gather and present evidence in their defense. In the end, the death penalty may still condemn an innocent person to die, begging the question once more: should Missouri continue enforcing the death penalty?

Sources: Courthouse News Service, "Missouri's First 2015 Execution Splits SCOTUS," Joe Harris, Feb. 11, 2015

Forbes, "How Many Innocent People Are Sentenced To Death?" Elizabeth Lopatto, April 29, 2014

The American Bar Association, "The Missouri Death Penalty Assessment Report," Updated April 2012, Accessed Feb. 12, 2015

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