The state of Missouri executed Andre Cole tonight at 10:24 p.m. CT. The execution took place despite multiple factors raising questions about the appropriateness of the sentence, including Cole’s mental health; potential racial bias by the jury that sentenced him; and the fact that the victim’s family opposed the execution.
Cole, 52, was sentenced to death for the 1998 death of Anthony Curtis, who was stabbed during a child support dispute between Cole and his ex-wife Terri, who was also stabbed, but survived. Curtis’ mother opposed the execution, and Terri has said that the execution would be “devastating” to her family. One of their sons has said “although I am still angry about the attack against my mom, and am struggling to forgive my father, I do not want to see my father executed. If my father is executed, it will be devastating to my mother, my auntie, my uncle, my brother and to the rest of my dad’s family.”
Cole reported having auditory hallucinations, specifically hearing voices through the prison intercom system, the telephone, and his television set. A psychiatrist said that he had “prominent symptoms of psychosis” and suffers from “gross delusions” which prevented his rational understanding of the reason for and reality of his punishment.
Cole, who is African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury. An African-American woman selected as an alternate juror later described in a sworn statement how the 12 white jurors made racist comments about Cole in her presence.
“Every execution is a blight on the human rights record of the United States,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “This case demonstrates yet again that the death penalty is broken beyond repair. Mr. Cole’s case was tainted by racial bias and the evidence of mental illness, and justice will not be served by putting him to death.”
Last year, Amnesty International reported that Missouri executed 10 people, nearly a third of all executions in the country. Several of these cases showed evidence of racial bias and disregard for the mental illness of the condemned.
Amnesty International USA opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The U.S. was one of only nine countries in the world that carried out executions each year between 2009 and 2013.