Kansas City MADP Chapter Takes Action

Article submitted by Donnie Morehouse, MADP, with additions by Jeanne Christensen, RSM, editor.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an organization that works to end the death penalty in Missouri, has a busy and active chapter in Kansas City. The local group is participating with three other MADP chapters and about seventeen organizations to sponsor the Moratorium Now! Lobby Day on March 17, 2010 in the rotunda of the Capitol in Jefferson City. The rally gets under way at 10 am.

The rally at the capitol will call for a 2-year moratorium on executions in Missouri while a commission studies the death penalty system of Missouri in terms of cost, fairness of process, and practice of capital punishment. The speakers at the rally will include a murder victim’s family member and a former director of public safety in Missouri. The rally will also point to the case of Reggie Clemons, who has been imprisoned for more that 16 years under sentence of death. His case reveals the many broken parts of our death penalty system, from the abuse of police authority to prosecutorial misconduct, from racial discrimination to political use of the death penalty.

Participants of the Moratorium Now! Lobby Day are coming from all across the state and will speak with their representatives and other legislators following the rally. For more information on Lobby Day transportation or other questions, please see the MADP website www.madpmo.org or call 816-931-4177. The Kansas City MADP Chapter and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri are coordinating a bus from Kansas City to Jefferson City on March 17 for the rally. To ride the bus, contact Renee Boman at renee@madpmo.org.

The Kansas City chapter meets at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on the fourth Thursday of each month at 6 pm. Ann Johnson chairs the chapter and each month they sponsor an educational event, highlighting some aspect of the death penalty in Missouri. Last month, Ester Holzendorf, a former prison guard and warden in Oklahoma, shared her perspective. To contact Ann Johnson, send email to acjohnson.4550@yahoo.com.

While this event’s focus is on a moratorium on executions, a broader question is:  Can Missouri repeal the death penalty?  Yes.

In 2009, New Mexico repealed the death penalty.  New Jersey and New York repealed the death penalty in 2008.  In 2010, there are several bills in the Missouri General Assembly to repeal, to reform or to study the death penalty with a 2-year moratorium on executions.  In the Missouri House of Representatives, Bill Deeken, R-Jeff City, is the sponsor of HB 1683, the bill for moratorium and study. In the Senate, Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, is the sponsor of SB 930, a similar bill.  Want to find out more about these bills?  Go to www.madpmo.org.

Additionally, the members of MADP work across the state to educate and inform fellow citizens about the costs and consequences of a death penalty system in Missouri.  Other states have found that having the death penalty costs many millions of dollars.  In North Carolina, a study in 2009 found that having the death penalty cost the state $11 million more per year than prosecuting murder cases without it.   For California, the costs run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.  MADP is asking “What does the death penalty cost Missouri?” What does it cost beyond the dollar amounts?  In Missouri, there are 49 men with a death sentence, as of February 2010.   Since re-instituting the death penalty in 1975, Missouri has executed 67 people.  How do you put a cost value on these lives?

There are more than 3,100 people on death row in the USA.  So far, 139 former death row inmates have been exonerated after being found innocent of the crime for which they were convicted and sentenced to death — another reason to end the death penalty.

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