Please share the note from Crip solidarity Austria (an informal group of disabled activists) on social media to raise awareness that other nations are observing and speaking out against U.S. governors who are executing the mentally ill in astonishing numbers. The letter to Governor Jay Nixon that Crip solitary wishes to have shared far and wide speaks primarily to race-based convictions, which of course did not escape the Austrian activists’ attention. Thank you.
Probably innocent and disabled African-American Kimber Edwards is scheduled to be executed in Missouri on October 6th, 2015. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution codifies the freedom of speech as a constitutional right. This is why my friends of “Crip solidarity Austria” think that forwarding the letter below, addressed to the Governor of Missouri (Dem) by current and former Missouri state and federal elected officials, former officeholders, clergy, wrongfully-convicted exonerees, civil rights and civil liberties membership organizations, community leaders, and other engaged citizens, will not violate the regulation concerning letters to prisoners. My friends are confident that this information will not be censored. Hopefully. “Crip solidarity Austria” is urging Missouri to stop the executions of the mentally ill and of ALL prisoners on Death Row.
Missouri has executed six mentally ill men so far this year:
Solidarity without borders.
April 2, 2015
The Honorable Jeremiah W. “Jay” Nixon
Governor of Missouri
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102
State of Missouri v. Andre Cole
State of Missouri v. Kimber Edwards
Dear Governor Nixon:
We, the undersigned current and former Missouri state and federal elected officials, former officeholders, clergy, wrongfully-convicted exonerees, civil rights and civil liberties membership organizations, community leaders, and other engaged citizens, write to you out of great concern over the upcoming executions of Andre Cole, scheduled for April 14, and Kimber Edwards, scheduled for May 12. Some of us oppose the death penalty, others of us do not. But we are united in our grave concern about these two cases and –more broadly -about the apparent systemic exclusion of African-American jurors in death penalty cases from St. Louis County. That same county is, of course, home to the City of Ferguson and to the deeply troubling events of recent months. Those events include the Department of Justice’s strong rebuke of Ferguson’s law enforcement practices and their impact on African-American citizens. Just as those practices and their impacts are not limited to the municipality of Ferguson, racial bias is not limited to city-level prosecutions.
Regardless of one’s views about capital punishment, our justice system should not tolerate disparate or unequal treatment – particularly when a life is at stake. The circumstances of Mr. Cole’s trial are disturbing. Mr. Cole is an African-American defendant who faced imposition of the death penalty before an all-white jury in a county that is 24% African American. To obtain that all-white jury, the St. Louis County prosecutors used their peremptory strikes to remove all three of the black juror-panelists who were available for service. It removed one black potential juror because he was divorced but did not remove a similarly-situated white juror who was also divorced and paying child support, which was the theorized motive for Mr. Cole breaking into his ex-wife’s home, where her boyfriend was fatally stabbed.
We are also concerned about repeated instances of juror misconduct witnessed by an alternate juror in Mr. Cole’s case. The alternate juror’s affidavit states that the jurors violated the court’s explicit instructions by discussing the case and deciding issues of guilt and sentencing during recesses and prior to the start of formal deliberations. Further, white jurors made racist comments about the defendant and “those people” –a clear, disparaging reference to African-Americans.
Mr. Edwards’ case is equally troubling. As in Andre Cole’s trial, the St. Louis County prosecutor removed all three African-American panelists who remained on the jury pool. It defended one of the strikes by arguing that the juror might be anti-law enforcement because the police had treated his niece unfairly. Yet, the prosecution did not strike a white juror whose nephew was in prison for a burglary and who complained about the harshness of the criminal justice system. It defended another strike on the grounds that the juror is a postal worker, and the prosecution argued that it strikes all postal workers from juries.
The “postal worker” explanation is especially troubling because it parallels the St. Louis County Prosecutors’ racially biased practices in other capital cases. Last year, the state of Missouri executed Herbert Smulls, an African-American who was sentenced to death by an all white jury in St. Louis County in 1992. In that case, the prosecutor struck the only available black panelist for the stated reason that she worked as a “mail sorter.” In fact, the excluded juror, worked in a management position at Monsanto and, among other responsibilities, oversaw mail delivery there. According to a former prosecutor from St. Louis County, the prosecutor in Smulls is known to have invented the “Postman Gambit” as a way to eliminate black jurors. Postal workers in St. Louis County are disproportionately African-American, and the office used the “Postman Gambit” as a pretext to strike as many black jurors as possible. The inventor of the “Postman Gambit” now works as the Chief Trial Attorney for the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office. He was one of the two prosecutors at Andre Cole’s trial in 2001, and, of course, the “Postman Gambit” was used in Kimber Edwards’ trial the next year. Further, the prosecution has never provided a reason that it strikes postal workers and no other entire categories of civil servants, either individually or as a group, that is case -related and justifies the strikes in these cases.
The prosecution used similar tactics during the 2001 trial of Marcellus Williams, whose jury was comprised of eleven whites and one African-American. The prosecution eliminated six of the seven black panelists who were eligible to serve on the jury, including one panelist who was a postal worker and who had a similar “appearance” to the defendant. Mr. Williams’execution date was stayed in January as he attempts to pursue DNA testing. It is distinctly possible, though, that his execution will be rescheduled in the coming months.
Missouri courts have found that St. Louis County prosecutors have stricken black jurors because of race in five separate trials since those of Andre Cole and Kimber Edwards: State v.McFadden, 216 S.W.3d 673 (Mo. banc 2007); State v. McFadden, 191 S.W.3d 648 (Mo. Banc 2006); State v. Hampton, 163 S.W.3d 903 (Mo. banc 2005); State v. Hopkins, 140 S.W.3d 143 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004); see also State v. McFadden, 369 S.W.3d 727, 739-40 (Mo. banc 2012).
There are currently 11 prisoners on Missouri’s death row who are from St. Louis County. Seven of those 11, or 64 percent, are African American–even though African-Americans comprise only 24 percent of St. Louis County’s population. That disparity exceeds even that condemned by the Department of Justice’s recent report on Ferguson. See United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (March 4, 2 015), at p.4 (“African Americans account for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67% of Ferguson’s population”).
We strongly urge you to exercise your authority to appoint a Board of Inquiry under Section 552.070 of the Missouri Revised Statutes to examine the exclusion of African-Americans from jury service in death penalty cases. That statute allows the Board to “gather information, whether or not admissible in a court of law, bearing upon whether or not a person condemned to death should be executed or reprieved or pardoned, or whether the person’s sentence should be commuted.” A Board of Inquiry should investigate whether the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office has intentionally and systematically excluded African Americans from jury service in capital cases. The Board would have the ability, and the obligation, to consider St. Louis County’s practices across the entire universe of relevant cases. The Board must carefully and comprehensively assess all evidence brought before it. We urge you to stay the executions of Andre Cole and Kimber Edwards until the Board is convened and reaches conclusions after thorough investigation of the problems raised.
The stakes are never greater than when the state extinguishes a human life in the people’s name and for the people’s sake. The affected communities cannot perceive the system of capital punishment as just or legitimate when they are excluded from participating in it. We ask that you appoint a Board of Inquiry to ensure that racial bias has not infected the death sentences imposed in St. Louis County. The ultimate punishment must reflect the conscience of the entirecommunity and nothing less.
Representative Michael Butler
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 79
Representative Jeanne Kirkton
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 91
Representative Gail McCann-Beatty
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 26
Representative Sharon Pace (D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 74
Representative Tommie Pierson
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 66
Representative John Rizzo
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 19
Representative Joe Adams
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 86
Representative Judy Morgan
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 24
Representative Rochelle Watson Gray
(D), Missouri House of Representatives, District 75
Cheryl Dozier, Executive Director, Missouri Legislative Black Caucus
Honorable Susan Block, former Circuit Court Judge, St. Louis Honorable Bill Clay, Member of United States House of Representatives 1969-2001
Former Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford,
Missouri House of Representatives 2005-2012
Mary Ratliff, President, NAACP Missouri State Conference of Branches
Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri
Staci Pratt, State Coordinator, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Darryl A. Burton, St. Louis, Exonerated after wrongfully-convicted and 24 years in prison
Ellen Reasonover, St. Louis, Exonerated after wrongfully-convicted and 16 years in prison
Montague Simons, Chairman, Organization for Black Struggle
Denise Leiberman & Michael McPherson, Chairs, Don’t Shoot Coalition
Alison Dreith, Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition
Ann C. Johnson, Board of Directors, Empower Missouri (formerly Missouri Association for Social Welfare)
Jamala Rogers, Justice for Reggie Clemmons Campaign
Jeff Ordower, Executive Director, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment
Hedy Harden, Chair, Missouri CURE
Ellen Y. Suni, Dean and Professor of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law (affiliation for identification purposes only)
Rev. Mary A. Albert , Epiphany United Church of Christ, St. Louis
Rabbi Doug Alpert , Congregation Kol Ami
Kemery S. Baldwin , United Church of Christ
Rev. Janice Barnes, Pastor Trinity United Church of Christ, St. Louis
Rev. Joseph Behen, Priest, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer
Pastor Eric Belt, State Baptist Convention of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska
Rev. Mary Schrom Breese, The Episcopal Church, Diocese of West Missouri
Rev. Charles Brown, Mt. Airy Missionary Baptist Church, St Louis (affiliation for identification purposes only)
Pastor Carlton Caldwell, Moderator, Berean District, Missouri State Baptist Convention
Rev. Vickie Caldwell, Chief Operating Officer, Urban Church Developers
Pastor David A. Denoon, First Congregational Church of Webster Groves, United Church of Christ
Rev. Harold C.M. Ellis, Pastor, Clayton Baptist Church, St. Louis (affiliation for identification purposes only)
The Rev. O. Bryan England, Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri
Rev. Dr. Tommy Faris, Minister, United Church of Christ
Pastor Jimi Gwynn, Moderator, Union District, Missouri State Baptist Convention
Rev. Dr. Keith D. Herron, United Church of Christ
Dr. Jim Hill, Baptist General Convention of Missouri
Rev. Dr. Jane Fisler Hoffman, United Church of Christ; Missouri Clergy Alliance for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
James V. Hogue, Ordained Clergy, United Church of Christ
Sr Cynthia Hruby, Catholic Diocese, Cape Giradeau (former), Notre Dame Sisters
Fr. W. Paul Jones, Family Brother of Assumption Abbey (Trappist)
Pastor Doug Kraus, Marceline UnitedMethodist Church
Michael R. Kyle, Episcopal Priest, All Saints’ Church
Pastor Steve Lambert, St. Louis Area Pastor’s Conference
Rev. Elston McCowan, Fellowship Outreach District of St. Louis, State Baptist Convention of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska
Rev. Holly McKissick, Peace Christian Church, United Church of Christ, Kansas City
Rev. Chase Peeples, Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ
Pastor B.T. Rice, Jr, New Horizon 7th Day Christian Church; First Vice President, St. Louis County NAACP (affiliation for identification purposes only)
Louis Rodemann, Christian Brothers and Holy Family Catholic Worker
Rev. Donna Rose-Heim, Interim Regional Minister of the Christian Church of Greater KansasCity
Rev. Michelle Scott-Huffman, Pastor of Table of Grace Church, Jefferson City; Faith Voices for Jefferson City
Minister Ron Sebring, Disciple of Christ Church (retired)
Jeff Stack, Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation
Rev. Dr. Marilyn L. Stavenger, Peace United Church of Christ, Webster Groves
Rev. Michael L. Stephens, Southwood United Church of Christ
Rev. Steven E. Swope, Ordained Minister, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Susan Talve, Central Reform Congregation (affiliation for identification purposes only)