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New study shows it may be easier to utilize death penalty in Missouri

It may be easier to be sentenced to death in Missouri than in other states, according to a study released today.

The study -- sponsored by the American Bar Association -- finds that aggravating circumstances used by prosecutors are so broadly defined that virtually any homicide case in Missouri can qualify for the death penalty. 

St. Louis attorney Douglas Copeland sat on the panel that conducted the study.  He wants state lawmakers to adopt a more narrow definition for applying capital punishment:

“There must be a review of the aggravating circumstances in the death penalty statute, to insure that only the most egregious murders are eligible for the death penalty,” Copeland said.

The panel also recommends increased training for law officers who handle eyewitnesses in murder cases, storage of DNA for as long as a defendant or convict is incarcerated, and pay increases for public defenders who handle death penalty cases. 

Panel members also call on Missouri lawmakers to ban capital punishment for the severely mentally ill.

Missouri Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi (a.k.a., Ole Miss), and has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off the old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Mason, and their cat, Honey.
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