Missouri Executes 6 Inmates in 6 Months

The state of Missouri has been thrust into the national spotlight for policies regarding the use of the death penalty – and more specifically its frequent and rapidly increasing use. In the past six months, six Missouri inmates have been executed by the state, raising questions and debate among legal experts, civil rights leaders, and everyday citizens throughout the country over the use of capital punishment.

The most recent execution took place this past Wednesday, April 23 when William Rousan was executed for the murders of a 62-year-old woman and her 67-year-old husband in Southeast Missouri in 1993. Rousan was the sixth Missouri inmate to be executed since November, 2013. Prior to November, the latest execution took place in February, 2011. Missouri is now tied with Texas and Florida for the most executions in 2014 so far.

On the eve of Rousan's execution, anti-death penalty groups held 10 vigils throughout the state. One member from the anti-death penalty group Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty stated that the vigils were meant to show that there is "not universal acceptance of this policy of killing human beings." Roman Catholic bishops in Missouri also released a statement on Good Friday calling for an end to the state's death penalty.

A Divisive Subject

In recent months, the debate over Missouri's death penalty has peaked, including objections from death penalty opponents and Rousan's legal team regarding the secrecy of chemicals used for lethal injections. Similar debates have taken place in other states. Earlier this week, the state of Oklahoma halted two executions after questions surfaced regarding the state's secretive laws concerning lethal injection chemicals. Lawyers are questioning why states are refusing to reveal the source of chemicals.

The death penalty issue is one that involves profound and divisive issues that ultimately boil down to the state's ability to take human life. While this question is one that will likely remain a dividing issue for people throughout the country, additional legal questions about the chemicals being used, whether or not they constitute cruel and unusual punishment, and whether or not inmates have a right to know what they are being injected with have also been raised. These questions may have more immediate answers.

For now, the death penalty issue seems to be one that will continue to cause controversy, just as it has for many years. By promoting a democratic conversation about other issues, however, advocates and lawmakers will be able to use the law to challenge current standards and possibly effectuate change. Whether change will come – and when it will come – is still up in the air.

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