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March 2009 Death Penalty Moratorium

While an appointed commission studies all aspects of the death penalty, the JCRC calls for a death penalty moratorium until issues of fairness, impartiality, and the risk of error are resolved. The study would include racial disparities, sentencing disparities based on geographic location and income status of defendants, and adequacy of representation of capital defendants.

The Talmud’s reinterpretation of the Biblical death penalty indicates that there is necessity for such a high level of due process protection for the accused in a capital offense such that no earthly court could ever successfully meet a standard.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Jewish Peace Fellowship, and other Jewish groupings have called for total abolition of the death penalty.

Today, more than half of those on death row nationwide, both state and federal, are people of color. Nearly half of those executed by states have been minorities. Further, studies documenting the role of poverty in death penalty disparities reveal a failure to provide adequate representation for indigent people accused of capital crimes and inadequate funding to enable those defending them to prepare proper defenses.

Fairness and Justice demand a moratorium on executions, an irreversible punishment, until the Missouri capital punishment system can be thoroughly evaluated and addressed.

Therefore, the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council calls on the Governor of Missouri and our Senators and Representatives in the General Assembly to take the necessary steps to initiate a though study of various aspects of the death penalty with a moratorium on executions in Missouri while the study takes place, and to implement legislation, policies and procedures which:

Ensure that death-penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially in accordance with basic constitutional guarantees such as the right to due process of law; guarantee competent legal representation to every capital defendant and eliminate the risks that innocent persons may be executed.

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