November 22, 2014

Gov. Nixon, law enforcement plan for grand jury decision in Ferguson

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says law enforcement in Ferguson, St. Louis County, St. Louis City, other area municipalities and the State Highway Patrol will work together when a grand jury releases its decision in the Michael Brown shooting investigation.

Students and demonstrators protest on the Saint Louis University campus late Sunday night and early Monday morning. (photos from Twitter)

Students and demonstrators protest on the Saint Louis University campus in October. (photos from Twitter)

“Violence will not be tolerated,” the Governor writes in a statement released Tuesday.

The National Guard will also be part of the contingency planning process, “when we determine it is necessary to support local law enforcement,” says Nixon.

“We must and will be prepared,” he says.

A grand jury decision whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the August 9 shooting death of an unarmed teenager Michael Brown expected sometime during the last half of November.

Nixon says he and law enforcement leaders are not anticipating that violence will erupt when the grand jury decision is released, but says agencies have been preparing to respond if violence does arise.  .

Nixon would not speak to specifics of planned operations, yet wants residents throughout the St. Louis region to know that their safety is not in peril.

“There’s a lot of voices for peace out there,” says Nixon, “There are a lot of folks involved in the faith community, in the school community, in the non-profit community; good people of good will.  The hundreds and hundreds that applied to be on the commission, the school teachers, the administrators, the churches doing a whole lot to try to keep that from happening.”

Nixon reiterated that no date has been set for the release of the grand jury’s decision.  St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said that information will be released in mid-to-late November.

Nixon says in the involved agencies, more than 1,000 law enforcement officers have received a total of more than 5,000 hours of additional training, planning efforts have included coordination with fire and EMS services, and the state Department of Public Safety has distributed additional communications equipment to ensure seamless communication between agencies.

Victim’s family speaks out after Ferguson is executed: ‘It’s over, thank God’ (VIDEO)

In his final statement, convicted rapist and killer Jeffrey Ferguson wrote that he prays “for the victim’s family to have peace in their hearts one day and lose the anger, hate and need for revenge that has driven them” and that they find “forgiveness, compassion and love in their hearts instead.”

Kelli HallHowever, Kelli Hall’s father, Jim Hall, told reporters after the execution that what Ferguson felt in dying wasn’t one iota compared to the fear and pain his daughter felt when her life was taken from her at age 17.

Jim Hall was joined by his former wife and Kelli’s mother, Susan King, two brothers, Stephen (and Melissa) Hall and Michael Venegoni, Jr., and a cousin, Chris Parmeter, in saying that today was a “special day for Kelli’s family.”

“It’s been a very long 25 years waiting for this execution, way too long,” Jim said. “My family and I have been devastated for years over this. His family was devastated by this. This basically tore two families apart. That should have never been. It’s been so long, it tested our ability to move forward.”

“They took her someplace, they undressed her and Kenneth Ousley raped her while Ferguson stood by and waited his turn,” Jim said, fighting to keep his composure. “Ferguson was more violent than Ousley, because he killed her while he was raping her.”

Kelli Hall's family speaks to the press after Ferguson is executed.

Kelli Hall’s family speaks to the press after Ferguson is executed.

He says the Hall family was elated when an execution date had been set last month.

“We waited 25 years for that news,” Jim said. “It’s been 301 months since we buried Kelli. To the day.”

He says now, maybe, his family can move on.

“I’m not sure. We’ll find out starting tomorrow,” he said. “Kelli can rest now.”

“It’s over, thank God,” said Kelli’s mother, Susan King.

Governor Jay Nixon issued a brief statement about the execution, saying that Jeffrey Ferguson was convicted of Kelli’s murder and sentenced to the ultimate punishment provided by Missouri law.

“That sentence has now been carried out,” Nixon said. “I ask that Missourians remember Kelli Hall at this time and join us in keeping her family in their thoughts and prayers.”

Ferguson’s brother, friend and two daughters also witnessed the execution. His daughters wept as the curtain was drawn and he lie on the gurney. As he had said he would, Ferguson made funny faces at them, and mouthed that he loved them.

He was then administered a lethal dose of pentobarbital, waggled his feet rapidly, took a few breaths, then closed his eyes. He was pronounced dead shortly after.

Obama says Missouri legislature is wrong to not expand Medicaid (VIDEO)

Mike Bush with KSDK in St. Louis interviewed President Obama, asking him about the Missouri Legislature’s decision to not expand Medicaid. Obama tells Bush it “doesn’t make sense.”

Ferguson execution set for March 26, says he is ‘ready to go’ (AUDIO)

One week to live. Jeffrey Ferguson says he’s been moved into solitary confinement, “the hole,” and expects to be transferred from the prison in Potosi to Bonne Terre on Friday. 

Jeffrey-Ferguson-12-01-2013Though he’s been cut off from the rest of the prison population and his friends there, he maintains contact with his loved ones on the outside.

“My two brothers and brothers wife and my children and grandchildren and my friends, a whole network of people,” he said. “A lot of people have been calling and sending letters.”

Including letters, he said, from other victims’ families. Those who “want to know about forgiveness.”

Ferguson says he was blacked out on alcohol and cocaine when 17-year-old Kelli Hall was abducted, raped and murdered in St. Charles. He says he might or might not have committed the crime. However, he has taken responsibility for the crime and is ready to pay the ultimate price. Ferguson is to be executed by lethal injection at midnight on March 26th.

“Drinking and drugging, and blacking out every night,” he said. “For the last two years, I would drink until I passed out and then I’d wake up places I didn’t know where I was at and what I did. And this night I went out with these guys and we abducted and sexually assaulted and killed this gal, I don’t even remember seeing this gal. I don’t know how I got home that night, none of that. But, you know, maybe … the way the prosecutor said … I don’t know, it seems a little far fetched that a guy in that bad of shape would be able to do all that but … they gave me the death penalty.”

Ferguson said he was weak and didn’t have any faith or courage.

“I should have been a better man,” he said. “This is what you get.”

Ferguson seems conflicted on whether he wants to live or die. He says he wants to live, and that the death penalty doesn’t bring justice to victims’ families, but that he’s a Christian man and ready to “meet his maker.”

“It was 25 years ago, this is just a terrible way to do things,” he said. “I’m not complaining about being put to death, you know, kill me. I’m going to go to heaven to be with my Lord and Savior. That beats this place.”

Meanwhile, he said he’s talking to his family to get funeral arrangements in place and try to make this as easy as possible on them. He knows he cannot do that for Kelli Hall’s family. He is sorry, but said he has no words that can take away their pain.

“They had this bad thing happen to them,” he said. “They don’t need to have my name shoved in their face, and they don’t need to have their wounds opened again like this execution’s going to do. They’re going to bring them down there … stick microphones in their face, they’re going to start it all over again. It’s going to be like the first day for them all over again.”

This isn’t the first time Ferguson’s number has come up. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection in 2011, after Martin Link, when the state’s three-drug protocol was brought into question. Link was the last offender in Missouri to be put to death using the three-drug cocktail containing sodium pentothal, which renders the offender unconscious, followed by pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis, and finally, potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Since then, four offenders have been put to death using a single drug protocol, pentobarbital. It’s the same drug commonly used to euthanize animals and was once the standard drug used to put people under before surgery.

Ferguson thinks the process is cruel and unusual, but he’s not talking about the clinical aspect. He said he was prepared to die three years ago, “packed up, ready to go.”

“I told everybody it was their last visit,” he said. “You talk about cruel and unusual, it’s like somebody takes a gun and has a bullet in it and they play Russian Roulette with you and they keep clicking the chamber and they keep pointing it right at your head and you know they’re going to kill you, and ‘click’ and then it’s like, ‘Well, hang on a minute, let me re-load.’

“Do it or don’t do it,” he said. “Don’t dangle me over the fire. Get it over with. I’m ready to get it over with.”

Ferguson said his lawyer is still working to get the execution stayed or to get his sentence commuted, but that he doesn’t put too much faith in that. He said the only person that you can count on in life is Jesus Christ. And because of that, he’s making plans with his family for his funeral.

“I don’t have any fear in my heart at all,” he said. “I’m ready to do this. I’m ready to go. I’m going to go up there, they’re going to pull the curtains open and my family is going to be there. And I’m going to look at them and I’m going to smile and then make a funny face at them and they’re going to laugh, and then I’m going to tell them I love them and then I’ll go to sleep and die. Then I’m going to open my eyes and it’ll be Jesus and he’ll be going, ‘Come here, man!’ and it’ll be fantastic. That’s the plan.”

(AUDIO) Interview with Jeffrey Ferguson (29:16)

 

 

 

Westboro Baptist Church to continue to challenge laws banning funeral protests

A state law that forces funeral protesters to stay 300 feet from has been upheld by the Federal District Court for the Western District of Missouri, but that won’t stop members of Westboro Baptist Church from picketing, nor will it keep them from filing suits that claim the law is unconstitutional.

Westboro in KCMO“The latest ruling was a teeny tiny skirmish in a bigger war,” said Margie Phelps, eldest daughter of Westboro’s leader, Fred Phelps. “The bigger issue that’s being litigated and will probably make its way back to the Supreme Court — either out of Missouri or Nebraska — is whether we’re going to gut the first amendment.”

Margie Phelps and her sister, Shirley Phelps-Roper, have led the legal challenges to the law, claiming it infringes on a right to free speech. The ACLU agrees with them.

“And by that I mean start putting massive distances between big mobs that are out engaged in patriotic pep rallies outside these death events and this little church with its picket signs with an opposing message, that’s really what the battle is,” Margie Phelps said. “And of course that’s against the backdrop of a bigger battle, which is the soul of this nation.”

She said the law is prohibitive because it allows certain groups to gather outside of funerals, but not others.

“It’s a misnomer that they’re there to block us,” she said. “That’s an urban legend that’s been perpetuated by the media. Long before we ever started going out with picket signs to these death events — for at least two years — these bikers and military and citizens were piling up en masse outside these events with a ‘God Bless America,’ flag something approach.”

Margie Phelps said members of the Westboro Baptist Church finally decided that their counter message would create balance.

“It is not a blessing for your young son or young daughter to come home in little pieces in a body bag,” she said. “So we joined the discussion. They’re not there to block us. They’re there to rage against God for what he’s doing to their soldiers.”

Now, she says, the question for the United States Supreme Court is, do they hate the church’s message so much that they will keep piling hundreds of feet onto where church members are allowed to picket.

“Meanwhile, everyone else and their uncle and their dog can be right outside the front door,” she said. 

Margie Phelps said as long as there is a first amendment, and the United States claims to be a nation of laws, members of the Westboro Baptist Church will continue to carry its anti-gay message to venues it deems appropriate.

“When you pass laws against us and they become prohibitive in how they’re applied, we’ll challenge the laws and hold your feet to the fire of your own laws,” she said. “But more important than that, you can put us a million feet away and we’re still going to stand out there with signs and work with social media that was invented for us, and in every lawful way, put these words before this generation’s eyes, because that’s our duty.”