Thursday, August 04, 2011

Missouri: Former death row inmate ordered freed

Former death row inmate ordered freed
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty decries resources spent on capital punishment

Kansas City, MO, August 3, 2011---Following the Missouri Supreme Court ruling ordering a prison inmate once facing execution to be set free, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty decries the resources spent on capital punishment in the state.

Reginald Griffin had originally been sentenced to death for stabling another inmate to death at the Moberly prison in 1983. In 1993 he was re-sentenced to life without parole for 50 years. In a 4-3 ruling handed down August 2 the high court agreed that the prosecutor had withheld evidence that could have proven Griffin’s innocence.

The court noted that the state failed to disclose evidence that prison guards caught another inmate with a weapon in the prison yard just minutes after inmate James Bausley was fatally stabbed. That disclosure plus other developments since the Griffin’s trial compelled the court to order his release or require the prosecutor to re-try the case within 60 days.

“The case of Reginald Griffin shows how broken the death penalty system is in our state,” noted Rita Linhardt, chair of the Board for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP). “The state spent considerable time and money to obtain a death sentence, and now the case against Mr. Griffin has totally crumbled. Missourians would have been better served if these resources would have been spent elsewhere.”

MADP firmly believes that the death penalty is a wasteful and inefficient government policy that impedes law enforcement, delays justice for victim’s families and devours crime-fight dollars that could otherwise be used to save lives and protect the public.

“Studies from more than a dozen states have found that the death penalty is up to ten times more expensive than sentences of life or life without parole,” notes Linhardt. “With the state of Missouri cutting over a billion dollars from its budget this year, it makes no sense to continue with this wasteful public policy.”

Research shows that death penalty cases cost more because capital cases involve more lawyers, more witnesses, more experts, a longer jury selection process, more pre-trial motions, an entirely separate trial for sentencing and countless other expenses—racking up exorbitant costs even before a singe appeal is filed.

“The death penalty’s high costs add up to more than just dollars,” said Ms. Linhardt. “In the time it takes to pursue one capital case, law enforcement could solve and prosecute scores of non-capital cases. Instead, many crimes go unsolved or un-prosecuted, and those responsible are free to commit more serious crimes.”

Law enforcement is recognizing the failure of the death penalty. In a 2009 national poll of police chiefs, the death penalty was considered the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money. Police chiefs ranked expanded training for police officers, community policing and programs to control drug and alcohol abuse more effective than the death penalty.

The case against Mr. Griffin was built on the testimony of two inmates, one who later recanted his testimony and another whose testimony was suspect. No physical evidence connected Griffin to the crime.

“It was very fortuitous that Mr. Griffin was not executed,” noted Ms. Linhardt.

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