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

Mar 1, 2012

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.