Monday, April 6, 2009

Dennis Fritz Guest Speaker at First Christian Church in St. Joseph MO.

"A matter of life or death," by Erin Wisdom is in the Saturday St. Joseph News-Press.

Dennis Fritz lost 11 years of his life.

Mr. Fritz, who now lives in Kansas City, was sentenced to life in prison in 1988 after being charged with the murder of a woman who worked at a bar in Ada, Okla., he’d been known to frequent. Police claimed that hair found at the crime scene had been microscopically analyzed and determined to be his.

It wasn’t until 1999 that further DNA testing revealed the hair was not Mr. Fritz’s but actually belonged to the man who had been the state’s main witness at Mr. Fritz’s trial. Mr. Fritz was freed at last — but not before years of injustice took away his chance to see his daughter grow up and to otherwise live his life as he should have been able to.

Unfortunately, statistics show Mr. Fritz isn’t alone in being wrongly charged with murder and suffering severe consequences because of it. Some have been exonerated only after being put to death for crimes they allegedly committed — and it’s in light of this that First Christian Church in St. Joseph has hosted Mr. Fritz and others with similar stories who shared about their experiences.

In addition, the church voted Sunday to pass a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions of Missouri inmates on death row. This resolution supports a bill now in the Missouri legislature — HB 1870 — sponsored by Rep. Bill Deeken of Jefferson City. If the bill is passed, no executions will take place in Missouri until 2012. And during this moratorium period, a committee will study the details of cases in which the death penalty has been sought and will recommend remedies for deficiencies it finds.

“In Matthew 25, Jesus specifically mentions ministry to people in prison as ministry to him,” says the Rev. Chase Peeples, pastor of First Christian. “In our society, there is perhaps no group that could be considered 'the least of these’ more than people in prison, especially those in death row. Without approving of any crimes that may have been committed, we can declare that because of God’s love for them, each person on death row deserves a fair trial, competent legal counsel and access to the latest in DNA technology.”

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