JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri senator running for state attorney general pitched legislation Tuesday to change how the state defines and punishes acts of terrorism.
Two of Columbia Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s bills describe terrorism acts as “for the purpose of, or in a manner of, intimidating or coercing a civilian population, influencing the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affecting the conduct of a government.”
“We really don’t have a mechanism to deal with what is a reality now of public safety, which is a threat of terrorism in the state of Missouri,” Schaefer told reporters after the committee hearing.
One bill deals with those convicted of first-degree murder after committing an act of terrorism, as defined by the legislation. It would require judges and juries to consider if the murder was related to an act of terrorism when weighing whether to execute the killer.
Schaefer said while convicted first-degree murderers who commit terrorist acts could face the death penalty under current law, a list of aggravating circumstances that judges and juries now must review during sentencing doesn’t include an option for what he considers terrorism.
The attorney general’s office defends the state in death penalty appeals and sometimes prosecutes those cases.
Another measure by Schaefer would define as a terrorist crime seriously injuring someone while trying to intimidate or coerce residents or government. The penalty would be life in prison without eligibility for parole.
American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri lobbyist Sarah Rossi criticized how Schaefer’s bills describe acts of terrorism. She worried the state’s definition is not narrow enough compared with the federal government’s. She said that might lead to, for example, altercations during protests being prosecuted as acts of terrorism.
Schaefer also is pushing a measure to require the attorney general’s office to oversee screenings of jail and prison volunteers for terroristic tendencies.
When asked if he plans to use his bills during his campaign for attorney general, where he faces a potential GOP primary, Schaefer said the legislation is “good government.”
Terrorism bills are SBs 775, 891 and 939.
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