MSPD News Releases

MSPD News Releases

Public Defender Director Calls for Immediate Moratorium on the Death Penalty Following Latest Report Showing Racial Bias

July 17, 2015 (Columbia, MO) – Yesterday Professor Frank Baumgartner of the University of North Carolina released the results of a research study on the administration of Missouri’s death penalty, which showed, according to Baumgartner, that “disparities are so great that they call in to question the equity of the application of the harshest penalty, adding to growing concerns that the death penalty is applied in an unfair, capricious, and arbitrary manner.”  Among other findings, the report shows that homicides involving White victims in Missouri are seven times more likely to result in an execution than those involving Black victims.

This is the third report in just the last several months showing that criminal laws in Missouri are applied in a racially biased way (see AG Holder’s Ferguson report; see AG Koster’s report on traffic stops).  Director Barrett offered: “Now, in addition to evidence showing that states without the death penalty are safer, and that death penalty costs are dramatically higher, we have substantial evidence that Missouri administers this irreversible punishment in a racially biased manner.”

Even though 63% of all homicide victims in Missouri are historically Black according to the report, more than 80% of executions were in cases where the victims are White.  “When it is so apparent that our system of justice values the lives of one group of persons more than another, it should also be clear that the state is not up to the task of deciding who lives and who dies.”

Barrett concluded: “It has been said that justice is blind; unfortunately, it appears that justice can see quite well.  Therefore, as the director of the system that represents nearly all of the people who get sentenced to death in Missouri, I am calling for an immediate moratorium until there is sufficient evidence to conclude that this irreversible punishment is being applied equally under the law.”

A copy of Professor Baumgartner’s report can be accessed at:

The Missouri State Public Defender provides legal representation throughout the state to indigent clients in criminal cases.  To learn more about the Missouri State Public Defender, visit:

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Michael Barrett
Director and Public Information Officer
Telephone:  573-355-6030