Missouri Likely to See Change After Historic High in Executions

A decline in executions is likely in Missouri after two years of unusually high numbers. In 2014, Missouri tied with Texas for the most executions in the U.S., and it was second to Texas in 2015. However, changing attitudes about the death penalty--similar to national shifts--are evident in Missouri's sentencing trends: no one was sentenced to death in Missouri in 2014 or 2015, and less than one person per year has been sentenced to death in the past seven years. Moreover, a bill with bi-partisan support has been introduced to repeal the death penalty. It passed the Senate General Laws committee in late January. An editorial in the Columbia Daily Tribune highlighted the political diversity in the legislative support for the measure. Among those who voted the bill out of committee were two Democrats and two Republicans. Sen. Paul Wieland cited his pro-life views as a reason for support, while Sen. Rob Schaaf said, as long as it is "not fairly applied...I'm going to be opposed to the death penalty."

Staci Pratt, state coordinator for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the executions over the last two years reflect a bygone era: “Most were on death row for more than 15 years. We were looking at a snapshot of history. Today we are beginning to see a shift.”

(T. Rizzo, "Missouri’s execution pace expected to slow in 2016," Kansas City Star, January 18, 2016; H. Waters, "Death penalty," Columbia Daily Tribune, January 26, 2016). See Sentencing and Recent Legislation.