Joint Statement from Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Hip Hop Caucus, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rev. Michael McBride, Director of Urban Strategies and LIVE FREE Campaign at PICO National Network, NAACP, National Action Network, The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Dr. Virgil A. Wood
Dear Governor Nixon:
We understand that the state of Missouri has set an execution date of September 10, 2014 for Earl Ringo. We must urge you to use your discretion to intervene so that this execution does not go forward.
We have serious concerns that Earl Ringo’s death sentence and planned execution are the products of racial bias. Earl Ringo is an African American man who was sentenced to death by an all-white jury from Cape Girardeau County.
We represent a broad cross-section of national civil rights, human rights, and religious organizations and leaders committed to the protection rights and dignity of all people. Our system of justice must be fair, characterized by integrity, and beyond moral reproach. Such a system must be viewed universally as one where neither race, class, geography nor any other arbitrary factor plays a role in determining the outcome in a criminal case or the delivery of justice. We have grave concerns that this is not the case in Missouri.
According to the Sentencing Project’s report An Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity Missouri incarcerates African Americans at more than 5 times the rate of whites. African Americans make up 11.7% of Missouri’s population, while whites make up 83.7% of the state’s total population.
An American Bar Association report released in March 2012, “Evaluating the Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems: The Missouri Death Penalty Assessment Report,” identified a number of concerns and needed reforms to ensure that the capital sentencing scheme in Missouri operated in a manner that was fair and consistent with the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Among the concerns raised was the question of racial bias in the administration of the death penalty.
A 2009 study of death sentencing in Missouri found that African Americans accused of killing white victims were most likely to be convicted of capital murder, while whites accused of killing African Americans were the least likely to result in a charge or conviction. Overall, the study found that the Missouri criminal justice system punishes crimes committed against white victims more severely than crimes committed against African American victims.
The preliminary results of a St. Louis University study, under the direction of Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Wolff, indicate that racial factors continue to determine the outcome of capital cases in Missouri, with a significant overrepresentation of African Americans on death row.
We are very concerned that a travesty of justice will occur if Earl Ringo’s execution goes forward as planned. We respectfully urge you to appoint a Board of Inquiry to examine the role of race in the charging decision, jury selection, trial and death sentence of Earl Ringo. In the alternative, we ask that this and any other executions not go forward before the St. Louis University Study has completed its analysis.
Thank you for your consideration of our perspective. We stand ready to work with you and support your efforts to restore a shared public confidence in the fairness of our legal system.