Mississippi To Execute Juvenile Offender

We received this joint press release today from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty ( NCADP) and Mississippians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty :
Ron Chris Foster could become the seventh consecutive African American juvenile offender to be executed if his death sentence is carried out as scheduled on Jan. 8 by the state of Mississippi.
The last six juvenile offenders executed all have been African American. Although African Americans are disproportionately represented on death rows overall, the racial disparity among juvenile offenders on death row is even more pronounced -- two thirds of the approximately 80 juvenile offenders on death row throughout the United States are people of color.

"Mississippi needs to stop and study how race affects its criminal justice system in general and its death penalty convictions in particular," said Ken McGill, executive director of Mississipians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "The crime for which Chris was convicted was bad. However, given the circumstances of the crime, it is difficult to imagine that a white person would have received a death sentence."

Foster was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of George Shelton, a convenience store clerk, in Lowndes County. Although 17-year-old Foster had told a friend he planned to rob the store, he did not take a weapon with him when he did so. Shelton was shot with his own gun after the two struggled.

Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Foster never should have been tried for a capital offense. "He did not have a weapon with him, and there is absolutely no reason to believe he intended to kill anyone," Hawkins said. "In addition, the very fact of his youth and his background dramatically lessen his culpability."

McGill and Hawkins called upon Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to commute Foster's sentence. "This case cries out for commutation," McGill said. "The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for 'the worst of the worst' of crimes. This crime, while tragic, does not qualify."

Foster's execution, if allowed to proceed, could be the last in the United States involving a juvenile offender, Hawkins predicted. "We expect a number of states to move this year to ban the execution of juvenile offenders," he said. "Should that occur, it is more likely than ever before that the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to revisit this issue. The United States joins Iran and Congo as the only nations that currently execute juvenile offenders. It is time to halt this barbaric practice."
For more information on Ron Chris Foster, his crime and his life, including why clemency is appropriate, go here.

Here's how you can help: Please write Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and request a commutation of Foster’s sentence. Such executive action would not only encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to join the rest of the civilized world by banning juvenile executions in the future, it would also save this young man’s life. Click the "more" button for addresses and details:

Governor Ronnie Musgrove
Office of the Governor
PO Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601-359-3150
Fax: 601-359-3741
E-mail: www.governor.state.ms.us/aboutthegov/writetoindex.htm

Pardon/Parole Board
201 W. Capital Street Ste. 800
Jackson, MS 39201
Phone: 601-354-7716
Fax: 601-354-7725
E-mail: sskipper@mdoc.state.ms.us

Send a copy or also write to:

The Clarion Ledger
PO Box 40
Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601-961-7240
Fax: 601-961-7211
E-mail: dhampton@jackson.gannett.com

The Jackson Advocate
PO Box 3708
Jackson, MS 39207
Phone: 601-948-4122
Fax: 601-948-4125
E-mail: jadvocad@aol.com

For More Information:

ACLU of Mississippi
PO Box 2242
Jackson, MS 39225
Phone: 601-355-6464
Email: staff@msaclu.org
Web: www.msaclu.org

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