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Bishops ask for clemency for Missouri death-row inmate

Deck expected to be exectuted May 3 for murder of De Soto couple

The Missouri bishops have asked Gov. Mike Parson to grant clemency to Carman Deck, who is scheduled to be executed by the state on May 3.

The April 12 letter from the bishops and other religious leaders and civic organizations asked the governor to reduce Deck’s sentence to life in prison without parole.

“Beyond the aspects of this particular case, as civic and religious leaders, we are concerned that the use of the death penalty promotes revenge as a principle of justice to resolve social problems,” the letter noted. “It appears that the very violence that frightens us so much is making up proponents of violence.”

Deck was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1996 shooting death of James Long, 69, and Zelma Long, 67, during a robbery at the couple’s home in De Soto. Deck was sentenced to death three times, only to have those sentences overturned.

The bishops and others who are advocating for Deck’s clemency noted that he faced abuse, neglect and violence throughout his childhood.

The letter described the Longs’ deaths as “a tragic waste of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this difficult time. Sadly, no punishment will restore them to their families. Some may argue that society needs the death penalty to protect life. We strongly believe, however, that society can adequately protect human life without the taking of another human life.”

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will join with others across the state to hold vigils on May 3 for Deck and others who have received the death penalty. The St. Louis chapter of MADP will meet at 3 p.m. at the St. Louis Circuit Courthouse at Market and Tucker Downtown. The group will carpool afterward to an execution watch and vigil at 5 p.m. at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. Deck is scheduled to be executed there at 6 p.m.

Students from Rosati-Kain High School and others also will join with the archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission in traveling to the correctional center in Bonne Terre for the prayer vigil.

MADP also will hold a lobby day at the Missouri Capitol Tuesday, April 26. A rally will be held in the Capitol rotunda at 1 p.m, followed by meetings with legislators. Petitions asking for clemency for Deck also will be delivered to the governor’s office. For more information, see www.madpmo.org.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in 2018 added a new directive to the Catechism of the Catholic Church stating that capital punishment is inadmissible in all cases. “The Church teaches, in light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.’”

During his 1999 visit to St. Louis, St. John Paul II called for an end to the death penalty, stating: “The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. … I renew the appeal I made … for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”

There currently are 19 people living under death sentences in Missouri. The last time Missouri carried out an execution was in October 2021, when Ernest Johnson was put to death by lethal injection for the first-degree murder of Mary Bratcher, Mable Scruggs and Fred Jones, employees of a Casey’s convenience store in Columbia, Missouri.

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