A group of protesters held a vigil in front of the Boone County Courthouse Tuesday night expressing their views against the death penalty.
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, or MADP, were protesting the scheduled execution of Joseph Franklin, who stated he killed as many as 22 people. MADP held other vigils across the state including St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, St. Joseph and Joplin.
A vigil was scheduled to take place in Jefferson City right before the time Franklin was to be killed. A federal judge granted a stay of execution right before the vigil took place.
A group of about 15 to 20 people stood outside the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia Tuesday night holding up signs that expressed their views against the death penalty. One of the people protesting Tuesday night was Jeff Stack who is a convener for the Columbia chapter of MADP. He said he was once a strong supporter of the death penalty and even debated for it in high school. This changed when he unknowingly met a man who had committed murder and came to know him as a human being first.
“I met him as a human being coming out of prison, helping to teach him to read," Stack said. "Finally found out later on he committed a murder. He was a really skilled artist, but I met him as a human being first--not as a headliner or as a story. My awareness kind of was shaken about my assumptions about who people were who committed murder.”
Another protester among the group was Johannes Schul, who immigrated from Germany 15 years ago. He said he is not one to participate in many political issues, but this is an issue of universal human rights.
“There is something like human rights that most nations in the world have agreed to," Schul said. "As the United States prides itself arguing for human rights worldwide and condemns nations that don’t follow human rights rightfully so, we need to start doing this at home. There is no question that taking life is never justified by anyone, and especially not by the state.”
Stack said the group condemns the violence caused by Franklin and would have liked to have seen him remain in prison for life instead.
“Being a human being we have a fundamental right to life,” Stack said. “We need to find a way to promote the healing of murder victim families. Killing the people who kill is not really a way to do that. It’s a false kind of hope we give to murder victim families.”