Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is the Death Penalty Justice for All?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is the Death Penalty Justice for All?

Article excerpt

AFTER BEING OUT of town for a day, I returned to my office on Wednesday to hear a message on my answering machine from a man whose call I couldn't answer.

The call came from Larry Griffin. He'd called me Tuesday afternoon. Griffin was executed by the state of Missouri at 3:45 a.m. Wednesday by lethal injection at the Potosi Correctional Center.

Griffin and I never met, but we had a connection. About a month ago, I took an interest in his case and began looking into it.

Griffin, 40, had been found guilty of the 1980 drive-by shooting of Quintin Moss in St. Louis. Prosecutors said he had sought revenge for the slaying of his brother, Dennis, six months earlier. Dennis Griffin was a drug dealer, as was Moss.

As I looked into the case a bit further, though, I was left with some doubt as to whether Griffin was actually good for the murder. Griffin's attorney, Kent Gipson, had tracked down the one witness to the murder, who then was serving time at a prison in Florida.

The witness, Robert Fitzgerald, told an investigator that while he had picked Griffin out of some photos he had been shown at the time, he hadn't been able to positively identify him as one of the men in the car from where the shooting had taken place. He also said that police had suggested to him that he pick out Griffin even before he had made an identification.

Add to that the fact that another witness had come forth and claimed that he and three other men had joined together to kill Moss and that Griffin had had nothing to do with the murder.

I know that if a person was to believe everything that he was told by those in prison, no one would be in jail.

I don't claim to know that Griffin was not guilty of the crime for which he was executed this week. I do know that after looking into the case, I was left with some doubt.

After the column on Griffin appeared, he sent me a letter. I had mentioned in the column that he was no angel, that he had gotten convictions for felonies including property crimes and burglaries before he was charged with the murder of Moss.

In his letter, Griffin wrote: "I suspect my life will end soon, if the state should have its way. …

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