July 29, 2015

Study suggests racial, geographic and gender disparities in Missouri executions

Race, gender and geography are contributing factors in whether a convicted killer is executed in Missouri according to a study. University of North Carolina Political Scientist Frank Baumgartner conducted the study and says even though the majority of murders involve an offender and victim of the same race, 54% of black men executed in Missouri were convicted of crimes involving white victims. His findings also say homicides involving white victims are seven times more likely to result in an execution than those involving black victims.

Frank Baumgartner

Frank Baumgartner

Baumgartner says the study doesn’t account for how brutal any given murder was, but says the criminal justice system treats one race of victim as more deserving of retribution than the other.

“My statistics, as simple as they are, are very stark,” says Baumgartner. “They suggest that we really are valuing these different lives quite disproportionately.”

“If we can’t demonstrate that those disproportionalities are not justified by the facts of the crime, then we have to admit that the death penalty isn’t being offered in correspondence with the constitution which guarantees equal protection of the law,” says Baumgartner.

Baumgartner says he’s not suggesting there’s racial animosity.

“The disparities can’t be explained just by random statistical fluctuation. They’re so extreme,” says Baumgartner.

The study says there’s a much higher rate of death sentences in St. Louis county than in St. Louis city, even though St. Louis city has more homicides. The study also says homicides involving white female victims are nearly 14 times more likely to result in an execution than those involving black male victims.






Dismissal of Missouri lawmaker’s suit over contraceptive mandate overturned

An appeals court panel’s decision that an individual has the right to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s mandated coverage of contraception means that case is back at square one.

Senator Paul Wieland (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Senator Paul Wieland (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

State Senator Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) and his wife, Teresa, say because they are Catholic and have religious objections to providing insurance coverage for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs for their daughters, they shouldn’t have to as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

A U.S. District Court refused to consider their arguments, but an appeals court panel ruled unanimously it has to, according to Thomas Moore Society President Tom Brejcha.

“Is Obamacare a violation of their religious liberty right or not? I think that’s what the court must face squarely now,” Brejcha told Missourinet.

Wieland said the ruling that Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to provide such coverage to his employees should provide precedent.

“It would make sense that our relationship with our daughters is a lot closer than an employee-employer relationship, so I would think that logic tells us that we should win at the end of the day,” said Wieland.

That “day” could be a long one, though. Wieland said he doesn’t foresee himself, or the Obama Administration backing off of the case, so he would not be surprised if it would wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I would be shocked if we’re still not in litigation after the next presidential election. I have a feeling things will be appealed and appealed until it’s finally resolved.”

He said the stakes in the case are high.

“Any Catholic or any person with any kind of religious convictions that does not believe in abortifacient drugs would be able to say, ‘Hey, I want a plan that doesn’t include that,’ and that was one of the [Affordable Care Act’s] premises, was that all plans will have these abortifacient drugs in them.”

The decision this week reverses a dismissal that was made in November, 2013. The federal government could still ask that the full appeals court consider the appeal of the lower court’s dismissal.

Court: Missouri cannot keep maker of execution drugs secret

A judge has ruled that the state Department of Corrections violated Missouri’s open records and meetings law by not revealing the name of the pharmacy that makes the pentobarbital it uses in lethal injections.

Cole County Courthouse, Jefferson City

Cole County Courthouse, Jefferson City

The Department is allowed by law to keep the names of the members of its execution team secret. The Department has refused to reveal the name of the compounding pharmacy that makes its pentobarbital and it was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, a reporter, and a reporters’ organization, who argued that the secrecy statute doesn’t extend that far.

A Cole County Judge ruled the Department cannot, “define the execution team as it wishes, without limitation.”

The state has ten days to appeal. The Attorney General’s office says it is reviewing the ruling.

Missouri sheriff reacts to execution of ‘monster,’ David Zink (VIDEO)

Two men who will never forget the death of Amanda Morton have seen the execution of the man who killed her 14 years ago.

Green County Sheriff Jim Arnott was one of the investigators who searched for Amanda Morton in 2001 when her car was found abandoned with the engine running and her personal things inside. Investigators were eventually led to David Zink, who showed them where he had buried her in a cemetery after raping and murdering her.

Asked if the case has stuck with him, Arnott took a moment to control his emotions.

“It’s something you never forget. One of the things as law enforcement is we wanted to find her, and we wanted to find her alive,” said Arnott. “You have that little bit of hope that you can do that … that was probably the toughest thing, that emotion of hoping that you get there in time.”

Arnott said the type of man Zink was became apparent when he led authorities to Morton’s body, and talked about the crime during his trial.

“He was very matter-of-fact. Not really concerned about emotion. I never seen any regret or remorse,” said Arnott. “You look at the crime and you look at his previous ones and he was doing the same thing and because he wanted to do it … it was very planned out, very methodical, and very evil.”

Major Phil Corcoran called Zink’s demeanor during that time, “alarming … how emotionless and casual he was throughout our contact, to the point of recovering Amanda’s body. It was chilling.”

Related story:  Missouri executes David Zink for 2001 murder of Strafford woman

Arnott learned a lot about Morton during the investigation. He said Zink’s execution is the end of his story, but it is not the end of Morton’s.

“Her memory lives on with us, and some of the things she taught us even though she wasn’t alive at the time are things that we’ll never forget,” said Arnott. “She was a vibrant young lady with a great future and this monster took that away.”

Arnott was quick to answer when asked whether the execution was carried out soon enough.

“No. This should have happened 14 years ago.”

Nine members of Amanda Morton’s family witnessed Zink’s execution, including her parents and sister, but the did not make a statement.

Missouri executes David Zink for 2001 murder of Strafford woman

Missouri has carried out the execution of David Zink, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered 19-year-old Amanda Morton of Strafford. His death came 14 years and two days after hers.

David Zink (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

David Zink (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Zink’s official time of death was 7:41, approximately ten minutes after being injected with five grams of pentobarbital, at the state prison in Bonne Terre.

Zink issued a statement apologizing for his crime and urging fellow death row inmates not to fight their sentences, as attorneys for him did until his final hours.

“I can’t imagine the pain and anguish one experiences when they learn that someone has killed a loved one, and I offer my sincerest apology to Amanda Morton’s family and friends for my actions.  I hope my execution brings them the peace and satisfaction they seek,” he wrote.

“I also have to apologize to the second set of victims, my family and friends, that had the unfortunate circumstance of developing emotions which will now cause them pain and suffering upon my execution.  I kept my promise to fight this case for their benefit, and although unsuccessful to prevent the execution, we have been successful in exposing some serious flaws that offend the basic concept of the American justice system.

“For those who remain on death row, understand that everyone is going to die.  Statistically speaking, we have a much easier death than most, so I encourage you to embrace it and celebrate our true liberation before society figures it out and condemns us to life without parole and we too will die a lingering death,” Zink concluded.

Zink refers to his role as the namesake plaintiff in a case challenging the constitutionality of Missouri’s lethal injection protocol, which his attorneys argued leaves a risk of suffering for an inmate being put to death.  That suit has been cited by attorneys for many of the 17 men executed in Missouri since November, 2013, but has not been successful in stopping any executions.

No one witnessed the execution at Zink’s request.  There were several witnesses representing Amanda Morton.

A brutal crime

Zink rear-ended Morton’s vehicle at an exit ramp on Highway 44 while she was driving home. She called authorities, who found her car with its engine running and her personal belongings still inside.

A hotel manager later recognized Morton’s photo on a television broadcast and called police. That eventually led them to Zink, who had signed the hotel register when he took her there. When Zink was arrested at home he confessed and led authorities to a cemetery where he had tied her to a tree, broke her neck, strangled her, stuffed her mouth with mud and leaves, then buried her. He also stabbed her in the back of the neck to make sure she would not revive.

DNA from her body, hair samples found in Zink’s truck, and paint from her car found on his truck also connected him to the crime.

Zink said he killed Morton because he didn’t want to go back to prison. He had been released five months earlier from a Texas prison where he had served 20 years for abduction and rape. Victims in his crimes in Texas testified in the penalty phase of his trial for Morton’s death.

Zink was executed after the U.S. Supreme Court denied seven motions including six motions for stays.

After those were denied, Governor Jay Nixon denied clemency to Zink. In a statement he wrote, “After serving a prison sentence for rape and kidnapping committed in Texas, David Zink abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered Amanda Morton. These acts were brutal and horrifying, and a jury determined that the appropriate punishment for her murderer was the death penalty. The guilt of David Zink in this crime is unquestioned, and my denial of clemency upholds the jury’s decision.

As this matter proceeds to its conclusion, I ask that the people of Missouri remember Amanda Morton, and keep her and her family in their thoughts and prayers.”


Attorney General Chris Koster also issued a statement: “The horror and fear 19-year-old Amanda Morton must have felt after being kidnapped by David Zink that July night is truly unimaginable. David Zink callously took a young woman’s life, and it is fitting he pay by losing his own.”

Another legal proceeding that could have postponed or stopped his execution was a challenge to the way Missouri obtains the pentobarbital it uses in its lethal injections. That challenge said that Missouri violates federal laws and its own by having a compounding pharmacy make a copy of the drug, which is FDA approved and available in its original form, using a prescription obtained from a doctor that has conducted no medical examination and is under contract with the state. That case was dismissed on Monday.

Missouri is next scheduled to execute Roderick Nunley, one of two men responsible for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Ann Harrison in 1989. Nunley is scheduled to die by lethal injection September 1 at the prison in Bonne Terre. The other man involved in her murder, Michael Taylor, was executed in February, 2014.