“Death to the Death Penalty” was the name of the Feb. 27 workshop in KC sponsored by Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP), together with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The occasion was an opportunity for the networking needed to work effectively toward our common goal: death to the death penalty.

The workshop began with reviewing national and state trends. We celebrated the fact that nationwide, the death penalty is losing ground. And it is losing in Missouri as well. This is the first year since 1974 that a repeal bill (SB 816) was actually voted out of committee. It reached the full Senate for debate Feb. 8. One of our Kansas City legislators acknowledged during the debate that he had been unsure of the death penalty, but after hearing from his constituents, he is now against it. No vote was taken on SB 816, but it was another step along the way and reinforces the power of each and every voice.

Coming up, we need to watch for SB 652, calling for an analysis of the cost of criminal cases that result in the application of the death penalty, and SB 758, the Racial Justice Act. Stay tuned. For info, check madpmo.org or twitter.com/MADPMO.

The workshop addressed injustices throughout the system: inadequate representation, economic disparity, and the gross racial imbalance in prosecutors (99.9 percent are white), jurors, and judges, as well as wrongful convictions (9 percent of those convicted and sentenced to death are innocent).

About 3,000 inmates in our U.S. prisons live under the sentence of death; less than 1 percent of them are executed each year. Did you ever wonder how, why, and by whom decisions are made as to who will be executed? Are they really “the worst of the worst,” as they say?

I certainly did not have that experience with Michael Roberts, whom I journeyed with to that horrendous day of his execution on Oct. 3, 2001. He never denied his crime. He would have done anything to undo the violent murder he committed, but he could not. One of the first statements I made when I left the execution chamber was, “I have just witnessed a deliberate, sanitized, calculated murder by the State of Missouri.” Being a resident of this state, I was/we are participants in that crime as well as all the others that continue to take place.

We remember with deepest sympathy and concern the families of those who have been executed. They now grieve the loss their loved one. We always remember with deepest sympathy the families of those who continue to grieve the loss of a loved one by senseless violence. Let us also remember the loved ones of those who have been executed. May God comfort their ever-grieving hearts.

Let’s execute justice—not people!