Both Kansas and Missouri have lethal injection rooms like this one in San Quentin State Prison.

 

Being a part of a death penalty case is a monumental and exhausting task for everyone involved– from investigators and attorneys– to, of course, the victim’s family and friends.

There are 40 death row inmates in Missouri right now, 40 people with a scheduled execution date. Those on both sides of the issue, whether fighting for it, or against it, say it takes an indescribable toll on every single person involved.

“It’s something you never forget,” said defense attorney Dee Wampler. He has fought for it, against it, and even sat in the death chamber as a witness to the execution of the man who brutally murdered his aunt and uncle in 1989.

“Even at the very last minute when they do the lethal injection, you can’t help but think if your family has been murdered, if the person would lean up and say I’m sorry, I’m sorry for what I did, I apologize, you always have those second thoughts that maybe that person is redeemable in some way,” Wampler said.

He says the case being decided right now in Greene County– will have a lasting impact.

“It’s a difficult thing on both sides.”

Even those a decade removed– like in the heinous case of young Rowan Ford– they say it still feels so fresh.

“I just started carrying it (her picture) in my card case all those years ago when she was first missing, and I’ve never seen any reason to take it out,” said Newton County Sheriff Chris Jennings. He was then the lead detective in 2007 when Rowan was killed.

“It was certainly a high point, and not in a good way. I’ve been an officer for 37 years and I’ve worked a lot of homicides and one thing or another over the years, but this one because of the nature of the crime and the age of the victim– this was a heart wrenching special event I guess,” Jennings said.

He says his heart goes out to everyone in Craig Wood’s courtroom this week in Greene County, for the killing of young Hailey Owens.

Then prosecutor Johnnie Cox in Rowan’s case– echoes the sheriff’s sentiment.

“It is a tremendous burden to take on. It’s a very serious decision to make to seek it, it is, I guess you might say, the pinnacle of trial courtroom litigation… there’s no greater stakes than seeking to have someone sentenced to death,” Cox said.

Out of the 40 inmates on death row in the Show-Me state, one is from Camden County, and another from Christian County– those are the only two from the Ozarks. Jurors will decide whether a third one from our area, Greene County, will be added in the next couple weeks.

By Sarah Forhetz | KY3