When a jury cannot unanimously agree on a prison sentence for someone who is convicted of first-degree murder, Missouri law allows the trial’s judge to decide whether the person should be sentenced to death.

Rep. Bishop Davidson, R-Republic, is sponsoring a bill that would only let juries decide whether a convicted murderer should die – not a judge.

“I think Thomas Jefferson said it’s better for 1,000 guilty men to go free than one innocent man to be imprisoned. I believe we have very high standards, very high burdens of proof and I’m supportive of that judicial process because I think it dots its I’s and crosses its T’s. And when we subvert that system, whereas in every other circumstance, a hung jury would be a mistrial, but in this circumstance, for some reason, we’re allowing the death penalty to go through. The reason I did it is because I’m not comfortable killing a person who, by a jury of their peers, was not unanimously decided that that person deserved that penalty,” Davidson told Missourinet.

The Missouri House General Laws Committee could soon decide whether his bill should advance to another House committee.

Davidson said he has not decided where he stands on the death penalty, but he said he would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to a person’s life. He went on to say that he does not believe the death penalty is foundationally wrong.

“When it comes to the death penalty, it’s so final. Once you do it, you can’t walk it back. I mean, if there was anyone who didn’t quite know and was like, ‘Yeah, I’m confident you did it but I’m not confident enough that you did it that I should be killing you,’ then I didn’t think that we should be taking that upon ourselves to administer that death penalty,” said Davidson.

In a Republican-controlled legislative environment that takes a “tough on crime approach” in certain cases, is there a political appetite to pass his bill?

“I don’t see this as conflicting or contradictory to a tough on crime political agenda whatsoever,” said Davidson. “I don’t think it is less tough on crime, to say, ‘if our jury system is not determined to sentence you to death, then we will not sentence you to death.’ I think that there are 1,000 reforms that could go into our criminal justice system to improve that sort of toughness on crime.”

Davidson said he thinks there should be a focus on violent crimes.

“And I’m more inclined to have truth in sentencing, where it’s very clear exactly what you get for what crime and you don’t have all of these backdoor ways of getting out of prison, or not actually being sent to prison, or whatever the case may be. And then I’m for prosecution. I think there’s a lot of prosecutors out there who just aren’t actually prosecuting crime. I would say that I am still tough on crime, even as I question the veracity of the death penalty as a whole,” he said.

For more information on House Bill 2468, click here.

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