Criminals who kidnap and murder their victims would face new limitations on death penalty appeals under a bill filed Wednesday.
The bill comes just hours after Missouri executed its fourth inmate in as many months and one week after the kidnapping and murder of 10-year-oldHailey Owens. Under the proposal, the appeals process would be accelerated if the condemned inmate kidnapped a victim before murdering them. Death warrants would have to be carried out within 10 days from the dateof the warrant. The convict would not be able to ask for more than 270 additional days to file a brief or appeal unless approved by the full supreme court. Such appeals would automatically go to the top of the docket. The supreme court would then have up to six months to hear the argument, after which it would have another six months to issue a written decision.
Bill sponsor Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, told KRCG 13 lawmakers had been thinking about such a measure for some time, but the Hailey Owens case made him decide to file his bill. Thirteen of the senate's 24 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, including Columbia's Kurt Schaefer, who last week filed a bill to let the Department of Corrections put condemned prisoners to death by any constitutional means. Brown said the new measures are needed to send a message to criminals who commit the most severe crimes. He noted Michael Taylor spent more years on death row than his victim lived.
"There are times that the act and the murderer are so heinous that we need to be able to use this, not only as punishment, but hopefully as a deterrent," he said.
Brown's bill is the latest in a flurry of legislation from both parties dealing with capital punishment. At least 14 measures including Brown's have been filed during this session. Proposals range from Schaefer and Brown's bills to at least three measures to repeal the death penalty entirely. Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, has called for a cost-benefit analysis of Missouri's death penalty statute for the last three years. He told KRCG 13 he thought Brown's proposal might run afoul of the 1972 Furman v. Georgia ruling, which suspended capital punishment in the United States for four years.
"The Supreme Court was very precise about what they wanted to see," he said. "Unilateral action on the way that we implement the death penalty could bring those safeguards back under strict review."
Keaveny said he personally opposes the death penalty and added cases like the Hailey Owens murder prove it is not an effective deterrent.