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Clemency Asked For All

February 22, 1999
By: Chris Pelikan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - It wasn't a question of if, but when would Gov. Mel Carnahan, again, be asked to commute a death sentence like he did for Darrell Mease at the Pope's request.

James Rodden is set to die Wednesday, but the Missouri Catholic Conference has called for a temporary stay on all executions.

Rita Linhardt, Research Assistant specializing in the death penalty at the Missouri Catholic Conference, argues that Mease's commutation has risen public awareness.

"Mease was a one-time thing that has gotten people to start thinking about this issue," Linhardt said.

From the public debate, Linhardt hopes for more than just dialogue, she hopes for change.

"We want not only for the dialogue to continue. but for changes in the sentencing commission and legislation," Linhardt said.

The Sentencing Commission was formed in 1992. Linhardt claims the Sentencing Commission has yet to fulfill its obligation to study the disparity in the application of the death penalty.

Carnahan, who said he remains a death penalty supporter despite last month's commutation, is in Washington, D.C., at a governor's convention. His chief spokesman, Chris Sifford, reiterated the governor's stance on capital punishment.

"The governor supports capital punishment and his position has not changed," Sifford said. He said the governor is reviewing a clemency request and plans to make a decision sometime today.

Rodden lacks one advantage that Mease enjoyed -- a personal plea from the Pope. Carnahan attributed his decision to the extreme circumstances surrounding the Pope's visit. He added he did not foresee future commutations and said he still supports the death penalty.

Rodden was convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the December 1983 murder of Terry Trunel in Marshall, Mo.

Since the Pope's visit on January 26, Rodden along with inmate Roy Roberts have had execution dates set. Roberts is scheduled to be executed March 10. The Supreme Court is also scheduled to review the sentence of Cecil Clayton Wednesday.