To the editor:
Recently, Eutaw, Ala., passed a resolution urging the state legislature to adopt a moratorium on executions while issues of fairness were studied. Eutaw joins New York, Detroit and Philadelphia as the 100th U.S. city calling for a moratorium.
A recent University of Missouri-Columbia study of state homicides (1978-1996) found that the defendant's race and especially the victim's race, plus the defendant's income, figured more prominently in who was sentenced to death than did the facts of the crime. African-Americans accused of killing white victims were five times more likely to be charged with capital murder than blacks accused of killing black victims. The study sadly indicates that greater value is placed on the lives of white people and that institutional racism exists in Missouri.
In addition to this injustice, at least 100 innocent people nationally have been exonerated and released from death rows, including three in Missouri. Others were not so fortunate. Missouri has executed at least two people who were innocent. Three others had strong claims of innocence.
Our criminal justice system promises equality and justice. Even one mistake is an irreversible horror.
One hundred cities have taken a historic step toward fairness and justice. Missourians should insist on a moratorium while undertaking a study. If Eutaw's town council can do it, how about Cape Girardeau's city council?