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Carnahan Explains Decision to Commute

February 01, 1999
By: Chris Pelikan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mel Carnahan has made it clear that the commutation of Darrell Mease is not a precedent-setter, giving more insight into reasons for his decision.

Carnahan held his first statehouse news conference since commuting Mease's death sentence last Thursday.

Carnahan, an advocate of the death penalty, cited last week's papal visit and the Pope's personal plea to him as the reason.

"This commutation was based on the extraordinary circumstances of the Pope's visit here and his interest to one individual, making that appeal personal to me," Carnahan said.

"I continue to support capital punishment and I expect it to continue to be administered. We've had 26 executions, I was comfortable with the decisions I made in those and I'm comfortable with the decision I made here."

Carnahan commuted Mease's sentence the morning after he and the Pope spoke in a service at St. Louis Cathedral.

"He came down off the alter, blessed about a half dozen children on each side of the aisle, greeted vice-president (Al) Gore and Tipper Gore and then came to me and that's when the request was made," Carnahan recalled.

Carnahan was invited to Archbishop Justin Rigali's home after the service to further discuss the possible commutation. The invitation was extended by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's press secretary.

"I went to see him just as a matter of courtesy. I dreaded to meet him because I thought we were going to have a confrontation over capital punishment. I didn't look forward to that because I disagree with him and the position of the church on capital punishment and I still do," said Carnahan.