- MORLEY SWINGLE DELIVERING THE CLOSING ARGUMENT
- TO THE JURY IN A DEATH PENALTY MURDER CASE.
The most important part of the prosecutor’s job is to protect the public by competently and skillfully prosecuting violent criminals to make sure they are not roaming the streets looking for new victims.
Property crimes, drug cases, and all sorts of criminal offenses are certainly important; but violent crimes are the cases where the prosecutor truly earns his pay and is presented with the opportunity and responsibility of having an immediate impact upon making his community safer.
Since 1994, Missouri law has given prosecutors the tools needed to put dangerous criminals behind bars for lengthy sentences. Before that time, violent criminals, like any other convicts, would serve only one-fourth to one-third of their sentences, before being released to prey once more upon the public. In the greatest service the Missouri Legislature has ever performed for public safety, the "Truth in Sentencing Law" was passed in 1994.
Under the "Truth in Sentencing Law" (Section 558.019.3, RSMo) a criminal who has committed one of the seven most serious violent crimes must serve at least 85% of his sentence, even if his crime was a first offense. Thus, violent criminals convicted of second degree murder, robbery in the first degree, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, first degree assault or first degree arson must serve 85% of their sentence. Since the sentences for these "Seven Deadly Sins" can range up to 30 years in prison, the law truly serves to keep dangerous people off the streets.
Under Missouri law, the ultimate crime of first degree murder (murder after deliberation or "premeditated" murder) carries a penalty of either life with no parole or the death penalty. Either way, a person convicted of first degree murder will never walk the streets again. Whether a person gets the death penalty or not depends upon whether the prosecutor can plead and prove certain aggravating circumstances about the murder (such as killing two victims at once, torturing the victim, killing a victim in the course of a kidnapping or robbery, killing a police officer in the line of duty, etc.).
The Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office assigns its most experienced prosecutors to try violent crimes. When one of the seven most serious offenses is committed and the case is strong, the prosecution will rarely agree to reduce the charge to an offense under which the defendant would not be required to serve 85% of his sentence.
In first degree murder cases where the death penalty is applicable, the Cape Girardeau County prosecutor will seek it. Three Cape Girardeau County murderers have received the death penalty in the past decade.
* TRUTH IN SENTENCING LAW
* MAJOR CASE SQUAD