Missouri

  • November 16, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In response to the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, Paul Krugman at The New York Times explains why our strategy for responding to such acts of terror must be rooted in reason, not fear.

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times urges the Senate to confirm Obama’s court nominees before more individuals suffer from our understaffed justice system.

    Elsewhere in The Washington Post, Terrell Jermaine Starr says Missouri protesters’ efforts to exclude media from their “safe space” provides a lesson about press freedom and journalistic ethics.

     At The American Prospect, Rachel M. Cohen opines that the Rental Assistance Demonstration program may do more harm than good for public housing in the United States.

  • April 28, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Missouri recently executed its fourth inmate this year, providing a federal appellate court judge to once again raise disconcerting aspects about the state’s process of carrying out those executions. Earlier this year, The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen noted that on more than one occasion Missouri had carried out executions of inmates before the appeals process had run its course. State officials have also come under criticism for continually shrouding its means of executing inmates in secrecy.

    The latest inmate to be executed, William Rousan, also raised constitutional concerns about Missouri’s execution process before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Eight Circuit. The entire Eighth Circuit declined Rousan’s appeal. But Circuit Judge Kermit E. Bye lodged a dissent blasting the Court for not hearing the appeal, noting the “viable constitutional claims” raised by Rousan. Circuit Judges Diana Murphy and Jane Kelly joined Bye’s dissent.

    This was not the first time that Judge Bye raised concerns about Missouri’s procedure for executing inmates. In a fall 2013 case, Bye said Missouri has a “well-documented history of attempting to execute death row inmates before the federal courts can determine the constitutionality of the executions." In another death row appeals case, Bye noted the opaque nature of the state’s drugs used to kill the inmates was not helpful in deciding constitutional challenges.

    In his April 23 dissent in the most recent case, Judge Bye again noted the state’s ongoing work to “frustrate the efforts of inmates such as Rousan to investigate the method of execution the State plans to use to end their lives. Missouri shields these shadow pharmacies – and itself – behind the hangman’s cloak by refusing to disclose pertinent information to the inmates.”

    He continued, “So long as Missouri insists on carrying out executions, it is fundamentally important the State is sufficiently transparent about its protocol to allow adequate review of the constitutionality of its chosen method.”

  • April 5, 2013

    by E. Sebastian Arduengo

    Leave it to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board to attack what may be the most rational approach in this country for selecting judges in favor of an approach that leaves the judiciary vulnerable to the same kind of unspoken quid pro quo influence that plagues the political branches of government.

    Missouri has long had one of the one of the best non-partisan judicial appointment plans in the country. Under the plan, which has since been adopted at least partially by 34 states, a non-partisan commission (usually with close ties to the state bar) reviews candidates for a judicial vacancy, and produces a list of people from which the governor can make an appointment. If the governor doesn’t make an appointment, the selection committee can put a judge on the bench itself. The only popular “check” on the process is a retention election that is typically held once the judge has completed one year of service.

    The main criticism of this method of selecting judges is that it gives state bar associations, and plaintiff’s lawyers in particular, too much power in the nominations process, while voters effectively have no input on the people who will take the bench. This argument has been the clarion call of the Journal, and it was brought up again in this recent editorial, with the outrageous claim that Pennsylvania’s recent moves to become the latest state to adopt the Missouri Plan amounted to “the political class … using a political scandal to grab more power.”

    Predictably, the Journal glossed over the nature of the scandal prompting Pennsylvania to consider switching from its current system of elections for judges – one of the biggest in the state’s history. It resulted in the resignation of state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, after she was found guilty of using state employees to run her reelection campaign. One of her sisters, a former state Senator, is already serving prison time after pleading guilty to using state employees to work on her own and Melvin’s campaigns, then forging documents to cover it up.

  • April 30, 2009
    Guest Post

    By Christopher Hill, State Strategies Coordinator for the ACLU Capital Punishment Project

    During the last general election there was much discussion about the power of the executive branch. One great power that the executive branches of the federal government and most states have is the power to grant clemency.

    The ability to examine a person's life and decide to grant him or her mercy is awesome. This ability is even more incredible in the capital punishment context. It gives the executive the chance to save a life. In 2003, Gov. George Ryan (R-Ill.) commuted the death sentences of all 167 death-row inmates and pardoned four men. He did so because he believed that the state's capital punishment system could no longer be trusted given the numerous exonerations and the documented cases of law enforcement misconduct.

    Clemency can make things right when the complicated and convoluted procedures of the judicial system prevent justice from being done because, for example, a death-row inmate has missed a deadline. It can also make things right when a death-row inmate has shown that he has reformed and deserves the mercy of a life sentence without parole.

    Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) has that chance. Dennis Skillicorn is scheduled to be executed on May 20, 2009. Skillicorn (left) does not dispute that when he was younger he committed murders and was a thief. While he was addicted to drugs; he did horrific things. (Update, 5/1/09: Although he was convicted of an earlier murder and plead guilty to the Arizona murders, Skillicorn claims that he was not the triggerman in his first conviction and Nicklasson also confessed to being the triggerman in the Arizona murders.) 

    Dennis Skillicorn is never going to be released from prison. In addition to his death sentence in Missouri, he has life sentences to serve in Arizona. Interviews he has given indicate he is remorseful for his crimes and that he understands that he has to be punished for his actions. The issue is whether he should die for them.

    This is where clemency comes in and Dennis Skillicorn has many arguments for clemency.