May 19, 2009

Skillicorn and the Death Penalty

Dennis Skillicorn is scheduled to be put to death in Missouri on Wednesday, 20 May 2009.  But the likelihood that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will cancel the execution and even declare a moratorium on its use has grown now that even Missouri legislators who support the death penalty have admitted to having second thoughts about executing Skillicorn.

Skillicorn has an ugly and violent history: He was sentenced to death for participating in the 1994 robbery/murder of Richard Drummond, though Skillicorn was not the actual killer.  Skillicorn also participated in at least two other murders, though again, his accomplices carried out the killings.

Evil though his past may be, Skillicorn's situation still raises questions about the fairness of the death penalty. If he did not personally kill anyone, is he really among the "worst of the worst?" Is he deserving of mercy because he has been a model prisoner who has been of service to other prisoners as well as prison officials?  Is the sober Skillicorn still the same person as the apparently drug-addled younger man who committed the awful crimes?     

Whether Skillicorn is executed as scheduled or allowed to live, the fact that even death penalty supporters are debating questions such as these seems to herald a future in which the death penalty ceases to exist in the United States.