State NAACP chapter pushes to abolish death penalty in Missouri

Several other organizations are also pushing to remove the death penalty.
Ben Kothe / Graphic Designer

National attention has been drawn to the constitutionality of the death penalty due to the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett that took place in April.

After a period of seven weeks free of executions in the United States, three executions were scheduled in 24 hours last Tuesday, one of which took place in Missouri.

John Winfield, executed in Missouri on June 18, was the 75th person to be executed in the state of Missouri since 1976.

The Missouri chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has vowed to enact the largest-ever push for abolishment of the death penalty after Lockett’s execution and the recent acceleration in the rate of executions taking place in Missouri.

NAACP has historically opposed the death penalty and its core values lie in its mission that states “the mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.”

Thus, the Missouri NAACP plans on using more time and resources than ever before to rally in opposition of executions.

“There’s no way we can really decide what life has more value,” said Carmen Vajgrt, an MU freshman.

African-American defendants receive the death penalty three times more than white defendants, according to a 2007 study conducted by the Yale University School of Law.

NAACP has previously succeeded in advocating against the death penalty, especially in the case of Troy Davis, an inmate on death row in 2011 that the NAACP believed to be innocent.

Though Davis was executed, the NAACP brought attention to the issue of the constitutionality of the death penalty, and has additionally succeeded in abolishing the death penalty in several states.

Though the Missouri chapter of the NAACP has vowed to spend more time and resources than ever to rally against the death penalty, other organizations in the state of Missouri are working to fight against the death penalty as well.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) continually works against execution. In the seven weeks following Lockett’s execution, there have been two executions in Missouri. One was halted; the other, Winfield’s, was carried out.

“Our goal is to always oppose the death penalty,” said Allison Grammer, the administrative coordinator for the MADP. “Clayton Lockett’s botched execution invigorated (our movement), but didn’t change the way we approach the death penalty.”

To fight against executions such as the last two, the MADP’s goal is to spread the word. They have written Gov. Jay Nixon, asking to hold all executions, particularly because of the secrecy concerning the drugs used in executions. They additionally send out alerts and press releases, as well as encouraging the public to write the governor.

Rita Linhardt, senior staff associate for the Missouri Catholic Conference and chair of the MADP board, helps both organizations with lobbying, spreading the word and urging the public to contact the governor.

“There are many people who oppose the death penalty in the state of Missouri,” Linhardt said. “For some, it’s a moral perspective. They believe all life is sacred, even for those that have committed a great evil. Some see it as a human rights issue: people are entitled to their dignity. Some view it from a justice perspective: the death penalty is arbitrary and unfair. And some look at it financially, seeing that the death penalty costs more.”

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