Flanked by a quilt with the head shots of Missourians executed on death row, Jeff Stack led members of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship for Reconciliation in an effort to raise awareness of the frequent use of the death penalty in the United States.
The Boone County Courthouse served as the backdrop for tonight’s vigil as the group of 12 braved the frigid weather to protest the country’s 1000th execution, which took place at 2 a.m. Friday morning.
“We’re not trying to hold up these people as model citizens, but you don’t have to be one to have the right to life,” said Stack. “It’s the most basic human right.”
The vigil was part of a larger statewide protest led by Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty. The umbrella group organized vigils in St. Louis and Kansas City, but those were held on Tuesday. Stack felt it was more important to hold Columbia’s closer to the most recent execution, which took place in North Carolina.
The cold weather was no deterrent for the small group, which expressed strong feelings about the issue.
“I think the death penalty is a violation of the Eighth Amendment, and the government needs to recognize that,” said Jessica Metoey, a 23-year-old law student and member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Her classmate, 25-year-old Dustin Arand, joined her at the vigil.
“I feel that if the public policy goal is to prevent killings then it doesn’t send the right message if the state does it,” Arand said. “It’s inconsistent.”
Kenneth Lee Boyd had the dubious distinction of being the 1000th death row inmate to be executed since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty constitutional. Boyd was found guilty of killing his estranged wife and her father and was put on death row in 1994.
The state of Missouri as executed 66 inmates since the moratorium was lifted in 1976.