On January 6, 1989, the state of Missouri, after a long hiatus, renewed the practice of killing its citizens when it executed George Mercer. In the past 25 years, Missouri has executed 70 individuals, ranking the state the 5th highest in the nation in carrying out capital punishment. Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) marked this somber anniversary by calling for an end to state killing at a news conference on Monday, January 13th at the State Capitol Building in Jefferson City.”Twenty-five years of executions is enough, ” said Rita Linhardt, Chair of the Board for MADP. “Some states are realizing that the death penalty is a failed policy and are turning away from executions. Missouri, unfortunaltely, is going the opposite direction.” As a board member of MADP and as a representative of our CPPS congregation who has taken a corporate stance against the death penalty, I attended the press conference and made an appointment with Senator Ryan Silvey to once again make an attempt to end this senseless killing.
The press conference featured speakers with first-hand knowledge of the death penalty system including: Elizabeth Unger Carlyle – attorney for 15 individuals who were sentenced to death in Missouri, including three men who have been executed; Reggie Griffin – former death row inmate, who in 2013, became the 4th person in Missouri to have been found wrongly convicted and exonerated; Val Brown – mother of Angela, who was murdered with two other people by Deandre Buchanon, convicted and sentenced to death but later re-sentenced to life without parole due to the efforts of the victims’ families; Charlie Rogers – attorney for Herbert Smulls, scheduled to be executed on January 29th. I was especially impacted by the stories of Reggie Griffin and Val Brown. My heart went out to Reggie as he told his story of spending 31 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. I felt the pain of Val and sympathized with her as she talked about meeting Buchanon to question and forgive him in order to help her heal. I was grateful for the two of them to accompany me to tell their stories to my local senator in attempting him to sponsor a bill to find alternatives to the death penalty. I challenge all of you, the members and companions of our province, to attend the vigils in your area of the state in protest to Missouri wanting to execute Herbert Smulls. This is a good way to exercise our corporate stance against capital punishment. Contact Jean Swymeler or myself to find out more information about these vigils. Please attend the vigil for Herbert Smulls at Nichols Fountain on the Plaza in Kansas City on Tuesday, January 28th from 4-5pm.