Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Death Penalty Questioned

COLUMBIA - Organizers of the anti-death penalty event used a man who spent 17 years on Missouri death row as an example of errors in the system.

A jury convicted Joe Amrine of murder back in 1985 and gave him the death penalty; but the courts took another look at his case, and in 2003 Amrine walked free.

Amrine was in Columbia Monday to speak out against the death penalty. Amrine spoke to the gathering about how his case is a prime example of why the state of Missouri needs to take a closer look at its capital punishment policies.

For Amrine the past five years of freedom have had some mixed emotions.

"It's been hell. I mean, for real, it's been rough, for real," Amrine said. "I mean I wouldn't give it back for the world, but it's really been rough."

After spending 17 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, Amrine is speaking out against the death penalty.

"I'm living proof that innocent people do get put on death row, and I'm hoping that my presence here may have an impact," Amrine said.

The meeting in downtown Columbia brought together public citizens, politicians, and Amrine himself, all speaking out against the death penalty.

"It's time for us to re-evaluate Missouri's death penalty," Amrine said.

But a lawyer and former police officer says the death penalty does have its place.

"Well, in some cases I think the death penalty is approriate," Columbia attorney Stephen Wyse said. "And frankly in some cases I think it prevents additional violence."

But the opponents just want to use Amrine's anniversary as a time to reconsider.

"The time is now for at least this review," death penalty opponent Jeff Stack said. "We want to have a system in place that is fair, reasonable and just."

The meeting also featured brief speeches from area candidates for state legislature.

Reported by Syed Shabbir

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