Share |




  Christopher Simmons
Overturning the Death Penalty for Juveniles in the U.S.

Death Sentence Overturned

Death Penalty for Juveniles Ruled Unconstitutional by Supreme Court

By a vote of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court on March 1, 2005 held that the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments forbid the execution of offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority (Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens, JJ.) stated:
"When a juvenile offender commits a heinous crime, the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties,

but the State cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity."




   

Missouri's Supreme Court announced a postponement
of the May 1 and June 5, 2002 execution dates... 
Letters/calls/faxes/emails to Governor Holden are still needed...
From Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty    PO Box 54    Jefferson City, MO 65102


Missouri Execution Alert   –  Chris Simmons again

As you know, the May 1 date for Chris Simmons was postponed until June 5, vigils June 4.

A press conference is planned for Thursday, May 30, in Jefferson City, 10:00 am, in a Senate Hearing Room on the first floor the Capitol.  Please attend if you can.
Speakers:
1. Jennifer Brewer, Simmons' attorney
2.  Professor John Galliher, University of Missouri, will present a report,
"The Prevailing Injustice in Missouri Executions (1978-1996)".  (The report
will be available at http://www.mindspring.com/~emcadp.)
 

The European Coalition To Abolish the Death Penalty (www.ecadp.org) has set
up an online petition for Christopher Simmons.  Please sign the online
petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/simmons/petition.html

The American Bar Association has devoted a portion of their juvenile issues
website to Simmons including a clemency application written by his
attorneys for his May 1 date.  See http:www.mindspring.com/~emcadp for links.

On May 9, Maryland's Governor Parris Glendening declared a moratorium on
executions until release of a report studying whether there is racial bias
in application of the death penalty in Maryland.  First Illinois a couple
of years ago, now Maryland.  Can Governor Holden summon the courage to be the third?
 

The basic facts again:

As a 17-year-old high school student with no previous criminal record,
Simmons was arrested for the murder of Shirley Crook, who recognized him in
the course of his attempted burglary at her home in Jefferson County.  He
and a 16-year-old friend had been under the influence of convicted felon
Brian Moomey, who regularly had teens  commit crimes and bring the proceeds back to him.

Mitigating factors:

1.  Age: at 17 at the time of the crime, Simmons was a juvenile under
international treaties, which forbid execution of anyone who was under 18
at the time of the crime.  The United States' refusal to ratify the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (and other treaties) causes growing
dismay in many other parts of the world.

2.  Abuse.  Simmons' parents separated when he was a baby and remained
hostile to each other.  His stepfather,  an alcoholic, beat and intimidated
him and forced him to do heavy chores his own, biological, children were
not required to do.  Chris' mother, afraid of her husband, made no attempt
to help Chris, leading him to believe she did not love him.

3.  Mental illness.  He was abusing drugs and alcohol at the time of the
crime and was found to be suffering from schizotypal disorder, a condition
symptoms of which include pervasive deficits affecting his ability to
interact with others.

4.  Inadequate counsel.  At the penalty phase, his trial counsel failed to
present this evidence to the jury.

5.  Exemplary life in prison.  He has matured into a kind and helpful
person, according to many who have gotten to know him, with religious
faith.  He has become involved with several programs which give him a
chance to counsel youths against use of drugs and crime and hopes to be
able to live in order to help other youths avoid the path he took.
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO on or before Tuesday, June 4, in addition to attending the
news conference: Any part helps:

1. Ask Gov. Bob Holden to commute the sentence to a set sentence or life
with possibility of parole: 573-751-3222, fax 573-751-1495; State Capitol,
Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Toll-free: Kansas City: 889-3186; St.
Louis: 340-6900. Email through online website at
http://www.gov.state.mo.us/mail1.htm (remember that handwritten letters are
most effective, but email helps if you doubt you'll have time to write or call).

2. Candlelight vigil Tues. 6/4 outside the Potosi prison, 11:00pm-12:01am,
near front gate, Potosi Correctional Facility, Hwy O, just off Hwy 8, south
off Hwy 21, or I-55 to Hwy 67 south to Hwy 8 west.

CANCELLED IF COMMUTATION OR STAY.

Also June 4:

Columbia: 5:00-6:00 pm, Tuesday, Boone Co. Courthouse;
Columbia: 6:30 pm, St. Lukes United Methodist Church, 204 E. Ash;
Jefferson City: vigil, 11:00 pm until 12:01 am: High St. across from
Supreme Court;
Jefferson City: prayer service, 10:30 pm, St. Peter’s Catholic Church;
Kansas City: vigil, 4:45-5:45 pm, J.C. Nichols Fountain in the Plaza
(sponsored by Western Missouri Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty);
Kirksville: vigil, 11:00 p.m., in front of Pickler Library, Truman State
College campus;
St. Louis: 7:30-8:00 p.m., Catholic prayer service, St. John’s Catholic
Church, 15 Council Plaza, near Pine and 17th Sts. in downtown St. Louis
(sponsored by MASK);
St. Louis: 8:30-9:00 pm, candlelight vigil, Municipal Courts Bldg., 1320
Market (sponsored by Eastern Missouri Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty);
Springfield: 7:00-7:30 pm, St. Agnes Cathedral, 533 S. Jefferson;
Cape Girardeau: 8:00, Academic Hall on campus of SEMO.
 

3. Write letters to editors of major Missouri newspapers:

St. Louis Post_Dispatch
900 E. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
(314) 340-8000 (phone)
(314) 340-3050 (fax)
letters@post-dispatch.com

Kansas City Star
1729 Grand Av.
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 234-4141 (phone)
(816) 234-4926 (fax)
letters@kcstar.com

News Tribune
P.O. Box 420
Jefferson City, MO 65102
(573) 636-3131 (phone)
(573) 636-7035 (fax)
editor@newstribune.com



Original Execution Alert:

As a 17-year-old high school student with no previous criminal record,
Simmons was arrested for the murder of Shirley Crook, who recognized him in
the course of his attempted burglary at her home in Jefferson County.  He
and a 16-year-old friend had been under the influence of convicted felon
Brian Moomey, who regularly had teens  commit crimes and bring the proceeds
back to him.

Mitigating factors:

1.  Age: at 17 at the time of the crime, Simmons was a juvenile under
international treaties, which forbid execution of anyone who was under 18
at the time of the crime.  The United States' refusal to ratify the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (and other treaties) causes dismay in
many other parts of the world.

2.  Abuse.  Simmons' parents separated when he was a baby and remained
hostile to each other.  His stepfather,  an alcoholic, beat and intimidated
him and forced him to do heavy chores his own, biological, children were
not required to do.  Chris' mother, afraid of her husband, made no attempt
to help Chris, leading him to believe she did not love him.

3.  Mental illness.  He was abusing drugs and alcohol at the time of the
crime and was found to be suffering from schizotypal disorder, a condition
symptoms of which include pervasive deficits affecting his ability to
interact with others.

4.  Inadequate counsel.  At the penalty phase, his trial counsel failed to
present this evidence to the jury.

5.  Exemplary life in prison.  He has matured into a kind and helpful
person, according to many who have gotten to know him, with religious
faith.  He has become involved with several programs which give him a
chance to counsel youths against use of drugs and crime and hopes to be
able to live in order to help other youths avoid the path he took.
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO on or before Tuesday, April 30: Any part helps:

1. Ask Gov. Bob Holden to commute the sentence to a set sentence or life
with possibility of parole: 573-751-3222, fax 573-751-1495; State Capitol,
Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Toll-free: Kansas City: 889-3186; St.
Louis: 340-6900. Email through online website at
http://www.gov.state.mo.us/mail1.htm (remember that handwritten letters are
most effective, but email helps if you doubt you'll have time to write or
call).

2. Candlelight vigil Tues. 4/30 outside the Potosi prison, 11:00pm-12:01am,
near front gate, Potosi Correctional Facility, Hwy O, just off Hwy 8, south
off Hwy 21, or I-55 to Hwy 67 south to Hwy 8 west. CANCELLED IF COMMUTATION
OR STAY.

Also 4/30:

Columbia: 5:00-6:00 pm, Tuesday, Boone Co. Courthouse;
Columbia: 6:30 pm, St. Lukes United Methodist Church, 204 E. Ash;
Jefferson City: vigil, 11:00 pm until 12:01 am: High St. across from
Supreme Court;
Jefferson City: prayer service, 10:30 pm, St. Peter’s Catholic Church;
Kansas City: vigil, 4:45-5:45 pm, J.C. Nichols Fountain in the Plaza
(sponsored by Western Missouri Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty);
Kirksville: vigil, 11:00 p.m., in front of Pickler Library, Truman State
College campus;
St. Louis: 7:30-8:00 p.m., Catholic prayer service, St. John’s Catholic
Church, 15 Council Plaza, near Pine and 17th Sts. in downtown St. Louis
(sponsored by MASK);
St. Louis: 8:30-9:00 pm, candlelight vigil, Municipal Courts Bldg., 1320
Market (sponsored by Eastern Missouri Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty);
Springfield: 7:00-7:30 pm, St. Agnes Cathedral, 533 S. Jefferson;
Cape Girardeau: 8:00, Academic Hall on campus of SEMO.
 

3. Write letters to editors of major Missouri newspapers:

St. Louis Post_Dispatch
900 E. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
(314) 340-8000 (phone)
(314) 340-3050 (fax)
letters@post-dispatch.com

Kansas City Star
1729 Grand Av.
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 234-4141 (phone)
(816) 234-4926 (fax)
letters@kcstar.com

News Tribune
P.O. Box 420
Jefferson City, MO 65102
(573) 636-3131 (phone)
(573) 636-7035 (fax)
editor@newstribune.com

Information provided by: Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty
P.O. Box 54 Jefferson City, MO 65102        Phone: 573-635-7239


AMNESTY ALERT :
12 April 2002 EXTRA 27/02 - Death penalty / Legal concern - USA (Missouri) Christopher Simmons

Christopher Simmons (m), white, aged 25, is scheduled to be
executed in Missouri on 1 May 2002, five days after his 26th birthday.
He was sentenced to death in 1994 for a murder committed when he
was 17 years old. International law prohibits the execution of people
who were under 18 at the time of the crime.

Shirley Crook's body was found on 9 September 1993 in the
Meramec River, near St Louis in eastern Missouri.  The 46-year-old
woman had been tied with electric cable, leather straps and tape. The
medical examiner determined the cause of death to be drowning, and
found that she had sustained several fractured ribs and substantial
bruising.

Christopher Simmons was arrested at school the next day. Despite
his age, below-average IQ (88), and the fact that he might face
capital charges, he was interrogated, at times aggressively, for two
hours by three police officers without a lawyer or parent present.  At
some point, a senior officer joined the interrogation. He told
Christopher Simmons that he was facing the death penalty or life in
prison and that it would be in his 'best interest' to tell the truth.  After
this officer left, the three others repeated this.  Christopher Simmons
eventually confessed to the murder. The state chose to seek his
execution.

A jury convicted Christopher Simmons of first-degree murder on 16
June 1994. The entire sentencing phase took place the next day. The
defence lawyers did not present evidence of the physical and
emotional abuse to which their teenage client had been subjected by
his alcoholic stepfather, who had also introduced his stepson to
alcohol as a toddler. From a young age Christopher Simmons took to
abusing alcohol and drugs.  The jury were left unaware of this, or his
mental health problems.

Arguing for execution, the prosecutor urged the jury not to consider
the defendant's age as a mitigating factor: 'Let's look at the mitigating
circumstances... Think about age.  Seventeen years old.  Isn't that
scary?  Doesn't that scare you?  Mitigating?  Quite the contrary I
submit.  Quite the contrary.'  The federal Eighth Circuit Court of
Appeals described these comments as 'improper' and 'condemn[ed]
the prosecution for teetering on the edge of misstating the law'.  In a
1982 decision, the US Supreme Court had ruled that 'the
chronological age of a minor is itself a relevant mitigating factor of
great weight' in capital cases. It said that 'the background and mental
and emotional development of a youthful defendant [must also] be
duly considered in sentencing'.

The prosecutor also urged the jury to vote for execution for the sake
of Christopher Simmons' family: 'Show some mercy to his family, give
him death... Look at his little brother [who had testified on his
brother's behalf]. [He] said it all.  Someday I want to grow up to be
just like [Christopher].  To be just like him.  Spare those kids of that.'
The Eighth Circuit also found these comments to be 'improper' and to
have 'no place in an American courtroom', and 'admonish[ed] the
prosecutor to consider the implications of placing the burden of an
execution on the shoulders of a child, even if that burden exists only
in the child's mind or in prosecutorial rhetoric'.  The court still upheld
the death sentence.

Under the United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors,
adopted in 1990, prosecutors must 'at all times maintain the honour
and dignity of their profession' and 'perform their duties fairly,
consistently and expeditiously, and respect and protect human dignity
and uphold human rights'.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors also state that prosecutors
must be made aware of 'human rights and fundamental freedoms
recognized by national and international law'.  In this case, the
prosecution violated international law in seeking the death penalty
against Christopher Simmons.

The execution of people for crimes committed when they were under
18 violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The prohibition on the
imposition of the death penalty against child offenders is so widely
respected that it has become a principle of customary international
law, binding on all countries, regardless of which treaties they have or
have not ratified.

The last execution of a child offender in Missouri was that of
Frederick Lashley, killed on 28 July 1993 for a crime committed when
he was 17. Since Christopher Simmons was arrested the following
month, there have been 17 executions of child offenders documented
worldwide, 10 of them in the USA. The others were in Democratic
Republic of Congo (1), Iran (3), Nigeria (1), and Pakistan (2). Last
year, Pakistan's President announced that he would commute the
death sentences of all young offenders on death row there.

There have been 769 executions in the USA since judicial killing
resumed there in 1977.  Missouri accounts for 57 of these executions.
There have been 20 executions nationwide this year, four of them in
Missouri.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- expressing sympathy for the family and friends of Shirley Cook,
explaining that you are not seeking in any way to excuse her murder;
- expressing concern that Missouri intends to kill Christopher
Simmons, in violation of international law, respected in almost every
country, which prohibits the execution of people who were under 18 at
the time of the crime, in recognition of the immaturity of young people
and their potential for rehabilitation;
- noting that the power of executive clemency exists to compensate
for errors and inequities in the legal system, and that the Governor
can now consider the mitigating evidence that the jury never heard,
as well as taking full account of the improper arguments of the
prosecution;
- urging the governor to commute this death sentence in the interest
of justice, decency, international law, and the reputation of his state.

APPEALS TO:

Governor Bob Holden
Missouri Capitol Building, Room 218
PO Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0720
Fax: 1 573 751 1495
Salutation: Dear Governor

You may also write a brief letter (not more than 250 words) to:
Letters to the Editor
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
900 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
Fax: 1 314 340 3139
E-mail: letters@post-dispatch.com

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement
that promotes and defends human rights.

Please do not repost this appeal to any part of the Internet
without prior permission from Amnesty International. Thank you for
your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
PO Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
Email: uan@aiusa.org
http://www.amnestyusa.org/urgent/
Phone: 303 258 1170
Fax:     303 258 7881

Information provided by Amnesty International

SEND YOUR APPEALS TO GOVERNOR HOLDEN
Below are copies of letters sent to Governor Holden to Stop the Execution
Feel free to copy the text to send your letter to protest the exceution of Christopher Simmons
 

The Honourable Bob Holden
Governor of Missouri
Missouri Capitol Building, Room 218
P.O. Box 720
J e f f e r s o n  C i t y ,
Missouri 65102-0720
U S A

Fax: 001 573 751 1495
 

              April 2002

Dear Governor,

with much concern I have learned about the case of
Christopher Simmons, aged 25, who is scheduled to be
executed in Missouri on 1 May 2002. He was sentenced
to death in 1994 for a murder committed when he was 17
years old.

The execution of people for crimes committed when they
were under 18, violates the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child. The prohibition on the imposition
of the death penalty against child offenders is so
widely respected that it has become a principle of
customary international law, binding on all countries,
regardless of which treaties they have or have not
ratified. Certainly this international law-breaking is
causing serious damage on the USA's image abroad.

I want to express my deep sympathy for the family and
friends of the victim, and I am not seeking to excuse
the manner of the crime, but I oppose the use of the
death penalty under all circumstances as
state-sanctioned vengeance and a violation of human
rights. It is a barbaric and archaic punishment of no
redeeming value. Researches in several countries show
that the death penalty may not necessarily act as
deterrent to serious crime. The deterrence argument is
based on speculation and not on any evidence.

For all these reasons, I respectfully call on you to
promote a culture of life and non-violence, show
compassion and spare Christopher Simmons' life by
comuting the death sentence.
Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely and respectfully



Below is a letter written by another DR inmate in Missouri in an attempt to
help save the life of Chris Simmons, who has an execution date of May 1st.
He was only 17 at the time the crime was committed. My friend has asked me
to circulate it as widely as possible-please feel free to print it off and
sign in your name. I have withheld the name of the author to ensure he
suffers no retaliation.

Governor Bob Holden,
Missouri Capitol Building, Rm 218
PO Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102

Dear Governor Holden,

I'm writing on behalf of Christopher Simmons who is scheduled for execution
on May 1.

I have tremendous sympathy for the family of Shirley Crook, Chris's victim.
Their grief and loss are unimaginable. There is likewise no justification
for the crime committed against Shirley.

Executing Chris Simmons, however, will only continue the cycle of
meaningless violence. A sentence of life in prison without the possibility
of parole would be a far greater chance for Chris to continue paying his
debt for years on end to Shirley, her family and society. It would also
signify Missouri's humane treatment of its young people.

Surely you are aware that execution of juveniles (Chris was 17 at the time
of his crime) is a violation of international law. In addition, though Chris
asked to have an adult present on his behalf at the time the three policemen
interrogated him after his crime, he did not have one present. For anyone,
especially juveniles, this is a sorry mark on our justice system!
Furthermore, Chris' trial lawyers did not present this evidence on his
behalf at trial nor did they provide any evidence of his abusive family
situation and mental impairment from alcohol and drug use, all mitigating
circumstances.

As a father of young children and as one responsible for the protection of
our state's youth, I urge you to commute Chris Simmons' sentence to life in
prison. This, in place of execution, will surely be a mark of your humane
but just treatment of Missouri's youth.

Sincerely,
 





Custom Search
The Canadian Coalition Against The Death Penalty - www.ccadp.org

CCADP on Facebook       CCADP on My Space      CCADP on YouTube

The CCADP has offered free webspace to over 1000 Death Row Prisoners Since 1998
The Eyes Of The World Are Watching Now
"The Eyes Of The World Are Watching Now"

Last updated December 28, 2010  Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty
This page is maintained and updated by Dave Parkinson and Tracy Lamourie