Man scheduled for execution in Columbia killings requests stay

Thursday, September 4, 2014 | 9:06 p.m. CDT; updated 11:44 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 18, 2015

COLUMBIA – A Missouri man sentenced to death filed a request Thursday that asserted race played a role in his sentencing and asked the governor's office to stay his execution for a review of the case.

Attorneys for Earl Ringo Jr. requested that Gov. Jay Nixon appoint a board of inquiry to examine if there was a racial factor involved in Ringo's trial and death sentence. The board would review Ringo's case and offer recommendations to the governor regarding a clemency decision.

Ringo received his death sentence in 1998 after being convicted in connection with a robbery at a Ruby Tuesday in Columbia that resulted in the death of two employees. The request states that race played a role in his sentencing because Ringo, who is black, was charged by a white prosecutor, tried by a white judge and sentenced by a white jury.

A study led by criminologist Raymond Paternoster could further the evidence that race was a factor, according to the release. The study, which is ongoing at the St. Louis University School of Law, provides preliminary evidence that there are many cases like Ringo's that involve a capitally charged black person and one or more white victims, the request stated.

Ringo, who is scheduled to be executed Sept. 10, asks for a stay of execution until the completion of the study.

Kay Parish, an attorney for Ringo, said the study could provide a framework by looking at cases similar to Ringo's. The board of inquiry could then use this information in the investigation of his case.

Parish said a board of inquiry serves a different function than a parole board, but it has not been used in many cases.

"It's independent," she said. "It's a board that has investigative power."

In an interview, Parish cited the Missouri Supreme Court's 1977 decision to re-instate the death penalty and require conduct proportionality reviews.  This requires that individual cases be compared with other life- and death-sentence cases.

Parish said the problem with Ringo's case was that his was only compared with other death-sentence cases, which violates the rule established by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1976 Gregg v. Georgia decision on the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Supervising editor is Bailey Otto.

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