Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Supporters portray Skillicorn as "changed" man who never actually killed anyone

With seven days to go before convicted killer Dennis Skillicorn meets his maker, the drumbeat continues to grow from those trying to convince Gov. Jay Nixon to commute his sentence. One of those, Jeff Stack, coordinator of Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, penned an op-ed in today's Columbia Daily Tribune, in which he pleads for the governor (or someone) to spare Skillicorn's life:

Skillicorn instead has embraced restorative justice, trying to give back to society while understanding he’s unable to undo the harm.

For the past five years he has been editor of Compassion, a bimonthly national magazine featuring writings and artwork by death-row prisoners. Subscriptions and donations have raised more than $40,000 in scholarships for people who have had loved ones murdered. He co-created the Full Circle program to help offenders become accountable for their actions and gain skills necessary for re-entry into society.

He worked with other prisoners in compiling a book with the self-explanatory title “Today’s Choices Affect Tomorrow’s Dreams,” which is distributed nationally to juvenile centers. Skillicorn helped start the Potosi prison’s hospice program and has cared for a dozen terminally ill inmates through the years. Several years ago, he co-founded the 4-H LIFE program, designed to strengthen families coping with having an incarcerated parent. Skillicorn, a devout Christian, co-founded Set Free Ministry, which reaches out to thousands of prisoners annually.

If any prisoner should receive clemency, “I think it should be Dennis,” said a former Potosi correctional officer who wished to remain anonymous, fearful of recrimination for assisting in the clemency appeals. Skillicorn helped make the institution safer by developing prisoner programs, the former guard said. “The more programs the offenders have to occupy their time, the better they are. If they don’t have positive things to get into, then they get into trouble.”

“Dennis is a quiet leader. He leads by example,” said Rick Secoy, who worked for 10 years at the Potosi prison. “The population at Potosi as a whole” would “suffer without Dennis Skillicorn.”

An anti-death penalty advocate who works at the Capitol, responded to Stack:

I have felt duped in the last week by those lobbying on behalf of Mr. Skillicorn. Since the early 1980's, Skillicorn has been involved in some capacity in the murders of four different people--two in Missouri and two in Arizona. The information being handed out at the Capitol would almost lead one to believe that his involvement in the death of Richard Drummond was his first time involved in any crime at all--but it's not.

I agree with you whole heartedly--I still hold out hope that Governor Nixon will grant clemency and give Mr. Skillicorn life in prison without the possibility of parole. I am just disappointed, because this is a cause I really believe in and I feel as though the advocates for Mr. Skillicorn in the Capitol and in the media have been less than honest about his criminal history.

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