Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Meet the Exonerated: Missouri's Death Row, Part Two

Clarence Dexter, Jr served eight years on death row before being exonerated in 1999. He was convicted of murdering his wife of 22 years, Carol. Police overlooked evidence that the murder occurred in the course of a botched robbery and decided that Dexter must have committed the crime.

Dexter's trial lawyer, who was in poor health and under federal investigation for tax fraud, failed to challenge blood evidence presented at trial. The conviction was overturned in 1997 because of prosecutorial misconduct. The defense then had the blood evidence carefully examined and showed that the conclusions presented at trial were completely wrong. The state's blood expert admitted that his previous findings overstated the case against Dexter. On the eve of Dexter's retrial in 1999, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Dexter was freed.

Eric Darnell Clemmons was convicted of the murder of Henry Johnson, a fellow prisoner at the Missouri State Penitentiary.

Clemmons had been cellmates with Johnson, but was moved to a different cell on July 1, 1985 after he accused Johnson of making sexual advances towards him. There was no reported trouble between the two following the move. This move occurred more than a month prior to Johnson's murder. Prison guard Thomas Steigerwald testified that as he was walking towards a group of inmates, he saw an inmate strike Johnson. Johnson then ran past Steigerwald, at which point, Steigerwald realized that Johnson had been stabbed. Steigerwald then pursued the inmate who struck Johnson. This inmate turned out to be Clemmons.

According to Clemmons, Steigerwald did not witness the stabbing, but had merely seen Johnson running into him after he had been stabbed by inmate Fred Bagby. Several other inmates testified that Bagby had stabbed Johnson. Following Johnson's stabbing, Bagby himself was stabbed three months later and died prior to trial. The State argued that the testimony of Clemmons' witnesses should be discounted because it was easy for them to try to help Clemmons by blaming someone who could not defend himself.

Handling his own appeal, Clemmons discovered an internal DOC memorandum that had been withheld from his defense in violation of Brady v. Maryland. The memo related that minutes after Johnson's stabbing, an inmate named Dwight Clark had told a guard captain that two men had performed the stabbing. Clark thought one inmate was Fred Bagby, but the other inmate he only knew by sight. On retrial in 2000, Clemmons was acquitted.

Eric Clemmons was sentenced to death for a 1985 murder which occurred in a Missouri prison. After losing all his appeals in state court and his initial appeal in federal court, Clemmons had called his mother to make his funeral plans. But new attorneys convinced a federal appeals court to reverse themselves and grant a new trial, partly because of issues and evidence that Clemmons had filed himself. When all the new evidence was presented at re-trial, the jury acquitted him in 3 hours on
February 18, 2000. Kansas City Star, 2/27/00.

1 comments:

BunBun4life 17:24  

it seems like anytime the killer dies, or a killer dies, the 'government' goes insane trying to find 'somebody to blame' whether it be a spouse, someone else in the area, whatever. That always drives me fucking NUTS.

There is this whole SOMEBODY'S GOTTA TAKE THE BLAME FOR EVERYTHING attitude these days that just makes me really sick. There's no need for that shit - sometimes the guilty die; sometimes there's extenuating circumstances.

I always believed if anything ever happened to my son, I would be in this rage and ""I'd do this & I'd do that & I'd kill a mother fucker, because I'd find that person and I'd be stabbin' somebody up & I don't care, I'd go to jail" but, when something actually did happen to my boy (when he was 15) I didn't feel any of that. Just a crushing all encompassing pain of loss and an actual physical feeling of an 'empty space' next to me, that something was actually cut out of the air & I could feel it. I would reach my hand over and move my arm into it. It felt real, like a kind of hole that felt different from the air around it.
After that I really didn't care about anything, or blaming anybody, I was just devastated and that's it. It was nothing like I thought it would be. Blame is for people who can't accept a situation for what it is - unchangeable.

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