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Missouri Death Penalty

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The Missouri House resoundingly defeated a death penalty moratorium yesterday. Virginia Young has this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Meanwhile, Dennis Skillicorn is due for execution next week. His case is a good example of why a strict "triggerman" rule is a bad idea. In most cases, the accomplice is less culpable than the actual killer, and that is an important factor to be considered in mitigation. Not always, though. The leader of a conspiracy who orders another to kill is more culpable, in my opinion, than if he did the dirty work himself.

In Skillicorn's case, nontriggerman status may duly be considered mitigating. But should it exempt him from the penalty altogether? No, because he was a full, willing partner in a multistate crime spree resulting in four murders. The facts are summarized in the Eighth Circuit opinion, here. In the weighing of aggravating and mitigating factors, body count is a cinder block on the aggravating side of the scale. It easily outweighs Skillicorn's nontriggerman status.

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The other issue is that criminals who act in concert are, generally speaking, more dangerous. Thus, in my view, being a non-triggerman, except in exceptional cases, is not much of a mitigator.

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