As execution looms, moratorium sought for study

Rep. sherman Parker (R-St. Charles), left, Michael Lenza, University of Missouri-Columbia sociology professor, center, and Rita Linhardt discuss the implementation of the death penalty in Missouri at a press conference March 9. Parker is sponsor of legislation to impose a moratorium on all executions until Jan. 1 2009.

Greg Salzer

Rep. sherman Parker (R-St. Charles), left, Michael Lenza, University of Missouri-Columbia sociology professor, center, and Rita Linhardt discuss the implementation of the death penalty in Missouri at a press conference March 9. Parker is sponsor of legislation to impose a moratorium on all executions until Jan. 1 2009.

Greg Salzer

JEFFERSON CITY – One week of life remains for Stanley Hall, confessed murdered of Barbara Wood.

Hall threw a struggling Woods off a bridge in St. Louis in 1994.

The State Supreme Court has set an execution date of March 16, the first execution for Missouri in a year-and-a-half.

Supporters of a moratorium on the death penalty spoke against the “crap shoot of state killings” one-week prior to the planned execution of Stanley Hall.

Hall committed the murder in the City of St. Louis, but despite requests from attorneys, the trial took place in St. Louis County.

“This is significant as St. Louis County is the state’s most zealous death penalty jurisdiction, resulting in 33 death sentences,” Rita Linhardt said.

Three times as many murder cases were tried as capital murder cases in St. Louis County as compared to murder cases in the City of St. Louis between 1978-1996.

A representative from Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty, Linhardt believes geographic arbitrariness needs to be studied by a commission during the proposed moratorium.

Disproportionate racial aspects of death penalties in Missouri also needs to be studied, Linhardt said.

Michael Lenze, University of Missouri-Columbia sociology instructor, said the chances of being charged with a death penalty for an African American killing a white person was 37 percent in St. Louis County. The chances a white person faced the death penalty for killing an African American was 12 percent.

Linhardt alleged their was prosecutor misconduct in Hall’s trial.

Prosecutors used peremptory challenges to strike all African-Americans from the jury pool in Stanley Hall’s case.

“During the sentencing phase, prosecutors coldly likened Mr. Hall to his pet dog, which was afflicted with distemper. ‘Both being,’ he implied, ‘needed to be killed,'” Linhardt said.

Hall was charged with capital murder after prosecutors refused to honor a plea agreement.

Hall had accepted a plea deal to avoid the death sentence. One of the conditions of the plea was to take a lie detector test.

When the test results came back inconclusive, prosecutors retracted the plea deal and charged hall with capital murder.

Two subsequent lie detector test supported Hall, but these tests were ignored, Linhardt said.

Hall has reported expressed remorse for his actions.

He reportedly told the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation “If taking my life would bring her back, I would have welcomed death eleven years ago.”

Supporters of the moratorium on executions acknowledged Wood’s family and extended condolences.

“We have to realize we will not stop grieving for those who have lost a family member due to murder,” Rep. Sherman Parker (R-St. Charles) said.

Parker is sponsor of House Bill 408, which has eight democrat co-sponsors and eight republican co-sponsors.

The bill would impose a three-year moratorium on executions in Missouri and create an independent commission to study if prosecutors are using uniform measures when they seek the death penalty.