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Bill Proposes End of Death Penalty

February 16, 1998
By: Jeremy Harlan
MDN Columbia Bureau

A condemned man sits in a holding room at the Potosi Correctional Center. Ralph Davis is on death row for murdering his wife in the mid-eighties.

"I am not scared about what is going to happen. The only thing I can do is have hope and watch the court proceedings."

He is also keeping an eye on a bill in the state legislature that could extend his life.

"I live this life everyday. I need to know what is going on simply because it's my life."

State Representative Quincy Troupe wants to repeal the death penalty in Missouri. All convicts serving a death sentence would receive life terms without parole.

The St. Louis Democrat believes the death penalty is a problem for taxpayers in Missouri. He estimates the state spends nearly 400-million dollars a year to keep criminals in prison.

"We spend too much to contain criminals and build new prisons for overcrowding. Our government is reactive rather than proactive."

Troupe wants this money spent on the education of the state's youth rather than its criminals. But, Troupe does not see his bill making it out of committee hearings.

"Politicians are not going to support a bill that repeals the death penalty," says Troupe. "Corrections is a multi-billion dollar business in this nation. By supporting the death penalty, politicians gain support from taxpayers, thus pouring money into the system."

State Representative Craig Hosmer, a Democrat from Springfield, is the chair of the Criminal Law Committee where the bill is assigned.

Hosmer says, "…because the death penalty is always a hot topic, there will be great support and opposition for the death penalty. The bill deserves to be examined carefully."

Hosmer supports the death penalty except in instances where the criminal is mentally ill.

"Many convicts are not receptive to incarceration in a prison and thus must be dealt with in other manners such as the death penalty. Regardless, it is my responsibility to make sure this bill is heard and the process of law is followed."

Troupe admits this year is not good timing for his bill.

"In a re-election year such as this, politicians are not going to support my bill because it appears to the voter that the politician is soft on crime. By supporting the death penalty, the politician is simply selling prisons and the death penalty for votes."

John Galliher, a member of the Mid-Missouri ACLU, agrees, "Most politicians sway to the viewpoints of the voters in their stance on the death penalty. The politicians in the far right are sincere about their opposition to the death penalty because it is morally wrong. The politicians in the center and left of the political spectrum support it as an expediency to gain votes. You can't call them liberals or conservatives; I guess you can call them winners."

We know the losers in this case. In 1988, Susan Davis' car was found in Ralph Davis' rental storage unit. The car contained bone fragments, dried blood, and human tissue later identified as belonging to Susan Davis. The case was one of Missouri's first trials in which DNA evidence led to a conviction.

Back on death row, Davis, dressed in prison orange, jots a few notes about the bill. He is not optimistic.

"State politicians aren't going to step on people's toes when it comes to the death penalty."

So… Davis will continue to sit… wait…and hope.