Members of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, or MADP, gathered at the Methodist Church in downtown Columbia Thursday to discuss reforming capital punishment procedures. Convener for the Columbia chapter of MADP, Jeff Stack, said the organization hopes to one day see the death penalty revoked. But for now, the immediate priority is to have it reformed.
“This gathering tonight is looking at a common ground, to try to have a system be as fair as possible, and to try and prevent wrongful convictions,” Stack said. “That’s at minimum what we should agree to as a civilized society.”
University of Missouri law professor Paul Litton gave a presentation at the meeting. Litton spent two years working in a committee sponsored by the American Bar Association studying Missouri death penalty procedures. His presentation highlighted the weaknesses of capital punishment legislation and addressed common misconceptions regarding the death penalty.
“If you support it because you think that some people deserve it, have you thought about the moral costs?” Litton said. “About how it’s often arbitrarily imposed or distributed? And second, have you thought about the financial costs? Most people think it saves us money. It’s not true.”
Litton said studies have concluded that it costs up to three times more to pursue an execution than to convict a defendant to a sentence of life without parole. Litton said legislative changes would improve accuracy and fairness of capital punishment sentencing.
MADP will continue to lobby for a moratorium of Missouri’s death penalty and promote reforms to capital punishment procedures.