Commentary: Missouri's execution moratorium makes sense

Executions in Missouri are on hold — again.

Any delay is to be applauded. The death penalty is expensive and impossible to mete out fairly. It is simply a flawed public policy.

But Missouri is allowing inmate appeals to determine how and when the state administers capital punishment. The on-again, off-again pace of executions is excruciating for family members of both victims and inmates.

Incoming state Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr. said last week the state will likely schedule no execution dates while officials await the outcome of a federal appeal filed on behalf of death row inmate Reginald Clemons.

Clemons had been scheduled to die on June 17. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals put his execution on hold after his attorneys challenged Missouri's lethal injection procedure.

This latest stay comes after the state went four years without an execution, also because of concerns about the three-drug method of lethal injection. Courts ruled the procedure constitutional, and Dennis Skillicorn was executed on May 20.

Last session, the Missouri House took a step toward resolving the uncertainty when it seriously considered a moratorium on executions. Lawmakers stopped short of taking that step. But they voted to create a commission that would review cases to ensure those sentenced to death are guilty and received adequate legal counsel, and to consider possible alternative punishments.

Unfortunately, the Senate didn't endorse comparable legislation. So the legislature passed up its best opportunity in years to lead the discussion on capital punishment.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.