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Anti-death penalty faction growing

To the Editor:

For the first time in the Missouri legislature, there is significant bi-partisan support for the elimination of the death penalty.  This coincides with a national decline in the use of the death penalty. Public opinion is also moving away from support of it.
Although the figure still hovers around 60 percent when given the choice between the death penalty and a sentence of life without parole, support for a life sentence increases.
The League of Women Voters supports the abolition of the death penalty. Forty state representatives sponsored an abolition bill in the house this past week. We hope this is a good omen that the bill will advance in the legislature.
We have known for years that the death penalty has been used arbitrarily. In Missouri , there is little consistency in the application of the law between and within counties. Unfortunately, there is consistency in the fact that one is more apt to be sentenced to death if one is black, poor or the victim is white.
Every day, prominent individuals, judges, governors, legislators, and employees in the criminal justice system publicly acknowledge that the death penalty system is flawed. They concede that the death penalty has not proven to be a deterrent to crime. However, the two most prevailing reasons to end the death penalty are more practical.
Since DNA testing has become available, many death penalty and other inmates have been exonerated because they did not commit the crime for which they were incarcerated. Whether one agrees with the death penalty or not, there is great concern that an innocent person will be executed, and that can never be reversed.
But a very practical and compelling reason to oppose the imposition of the death penalty is financial. Capital punishment costs the public many times more than a sentence of life in prison.
Of course, the most important reason for opposing the death penalty is that there is never a justification for taking another’s life.

– Sydell Shayer
Death Penalty Chair, The League of Women
Voters of Missouri

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