NEW VOICES: Missouri Republicans Raise Death Penalty Concerns

Missouri’s Republican House Majority Leader Steven Tilley says Governor Jay Nixon should commute the death sentence of Dennis Skillicorn, who is scheduled to be executed on May 21. Citing revelations that another suspect committed the murder while Skillicorn was unaware of the murder plan, Tilley said, “Certainly, that would be enough reasonable doubt for me that I would be very concerned if this state executed that individual.” Tilley’s suggestion to the Governor was made during Missouri’s legislative debate over a proposed two-year moratorium on the death penalty. Republican Rep. Bill Deeken had proposed a two-year moratorium on the death penalty. “I think it is wise for officials to conduct a study to see how many people have been wrongly convicted in Missouri and to help rebuild confidence in the accuracy of our system,” said Deeken. Tilley expressed support for a study, saying, “I support the commission doin’ the study to prove that the death penalty is taken care of properly in the state of Missouri.”

The House eventually voted 95-64 to eliminate the death penalty moratorium but keep a formal study of Missouri’s death penalty system. A 10-member commission would study capital cases, review possible alternative punishments and suggest law changes to ensure those sentenced to death are guilty and received adequate legal counsel.

(Kermit Miller, “House Majority Leader Urges No Execution on Convicted Killer,” KRCG: Connect-Mid-Missouri, May 14, 2009). See New Voices and Clemency, where you can listen to DPIC’s new podcast on clemency. There have been no executions in Missouri since 2005.