Paul Hinshaw has opposed the death penalty since it was reinstated in Missouri in 1989. After years of working in the low-income housing business, Hinshaw said he has seen how the death penalty disproportionately affects people who can’t always afford good defense attorneys.
“As a businessman with a conscience, I believe in this stance,” said Hinshaw, a managing partner of Hinshaw Family Partnership.
Hinshaw Family Partnership was one of 50 local businesses and organizations that called for a moratorium on executions Tuesday. Business owners, religious leaders and community activists spoke at a news conference held to show support for a resolution that calls for fairness and impartiality in capital cases.
The resolution asks the Missouri General Assembly to ensure constitutional due process of law and competent legal representation for defendants, and to eliminate the risk of innocent people being executed.
There is more fervor behind the resolution at this time, as the state is planning the April 27 execution of Donald Jones. He would be the 63rd inmate executed in Missouri since the death penalty’s reinstatement.
The moratorium resolution is sponsored by the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, a social justice advocacy group. FOR has lobbied Missouri legislators to support HB 408 and SB 303, identical bills supporting the establishment of a death penalty commission and a moratorium on all executions until Jan. 1, 2009. The commission would be responsible for researching the adequacy of counsel and resources at trial, race issues, post-conviction procedures, forensic testing and
uniformity of procedure. The committee would then make recommendations to the Governor, the General Assembly and the Missouri Supreme Court.
Although a house hearing has yet to be scheduled, a date will be set before the end of the legislative session, said an aid to Rep. Sherman Parker (R-St. Charles), who sponsored the house bill.
Columbia Rep. Judy Baker showed her public support of the moratorium in a letter read at Tuesday’s news conference.
“The residents of our state, not just those who are charged with murder, deserve a system that is fair and which doesn’t execute individuals who were wrongly convicted,” she said.
Jeff Stack, the organizer of resolution efforts, said some local organizations were hesitant to endorse the resolution for fear of alienating patrons. Two Columbia businesses on the list of supporters said that although they endorsed the bill personally, they did not want their business to be publicly named as a supporter.
Stack and Robert Schultz, a field organizer with Amnesty International, have been working in a five-city area — Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis and Cape Girardeau — this year to promote the moratorium. The resolution has received over 200 signatures across the state, Stack said, and he hopes to rouse more support in the coming months.
“I believe that every life is sacred,” he said. “The moratorium is an instrument that can bring people together of all different perspectives.”