Missouri continues executions despite serious questions about its justice system. Earl Ringo was executed on September 10th for the 1998 murders of Dennis Poysner and Joanna Baysinger. The conviction was based largely on the testimony of his co-defendant, who made a deal with the State to spare his life if he testified against Earl. The co-defendant was the actual killer of at least one of the victims, and admitted he made the decision to testify after being removed from jail and threatened by the police. Earl was an African American convicted by an all-white jury in Cape-Girardeau County Missouri. This county is 88.9% white and 4.5% African American, and of the 163 people in the jury pool for this trial, only four were African American and none were selected. An independent review by the American Bar Association in 2012 found that Missouri’s capital punishment system is influenced by race and racial considerations play an improper role in determining outcomes in capital cases.
This past weekend, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty state board members met at Precious Blood Center for our annual retreat. During this retreat we planned strategies and set benchmarks for the upcoming year. We decided to highlight the devastating effects of Ferguson, Missouri and the racism prevalent in St. Louis County as evidence in furthering our cause this year to stop the executions. We are pushing for a moratorium on capital punishment in Missouri based on racism, the cruel and unusual punishment of lethal injection and the secrecy of how it is carried out, and wrongful convictions. Just recently in North Carolina, Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown were exonerated by DNA evidence after serving 30 years for the rape and murder of an eleven-year old girl. They were put in prison through coerced confessions, and despite being mentally disabled. Wrongful convictions are a strong argument for a moritorium on executions in Missouri.
Daryl Charron, C.PP.S.