HB 1567 mandates death penalty

Alexandra Nicolas

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The price on life may be going up.

New legislation would mandate that anyone convicted of murdering a criminal justice official or corrections officer in the first degree would receive the maximum penalty under Missouri law, execution by lethal injection.

“What this basically is about is the death penalty,” said House Bill 1567 sponsor Michael Parson (R-Bolivar), “I know it’s a sensitive subject . . .but we start talking life for a life.”

Currently the choice of trying a crime as a capitol case rests with the prosecutors. Language in the bill would, under most circumstances, remove the prosecutor’s choice in seeking the death penalty. However, certain cases could be omitted if the alleged perpetrator didn’t know the victim was a criminal justice/public safety official or if they were not the intended victims.

“My opinion is that this bill is unnecessary, it is drafted in such a way that is doesn’t serve its purposes,” said Charlie Rogers of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

As of now the bill includes prosecuting attorneys, assistant prosecuting attorneys, circuit attorneys, assistant circuit attorneys, judges, jailers, probation and parole officers, or any employee of a correctional center or anyone assigned to work in a correctional center plus police officers. Parson also mentioned possibly adding language to include emergency fire and medical officials to the bill.

“This is the ultimate penalty for the ultimate crime,” Parson said.

Rogers raised concerns specific to the issues of those sentenced to death and later found innocent including inmates accused of killing guards or other inmates.

“There have been well over a hundred innocent people in the United States sentenced to death who were exonerated,” he said.

Other issues pertaining to the cost of pursuing more death penalty cases, both in time and money were primary issues in Tuesday’s hearing. Mistrials and appeals, along with both prosecution and defense carry heavy costs for the state and individuals.

“It’s not only bad policy, it’s bad politics,” Rogers said “The trend has been for restriction, we’re moving away from the death penalty. Juries just don’t come back on the death penalty.”

However, Parson said he is not opposed to revising HB 1567. His only interested is in “justice for those who have sacrificed.”

“Frankly, if there is a way to make it a better bill I support that,” he said, “I just want to protect the people that protect us.”