Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stop the Execution of Reggie Clemons in Missouri!

There are several troubling aspects to this case. Apparently Cummins, one of the alleged victims, initially made a confession to police that he had murdered his two cousins by pushing them off the bridge. After the four eventual suspects were caught, Cummins retracted and said that he had been mistreated by police and coerced into giving the confession. -- US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 2004
Reginald Clemons, (left) currently on death row in Missouri for the last 17 years, almost all of his adult life, was convicted and sentenced to die as an accomplice to first-degree murder, rather than a principal actor. His sentence remains upheld by the state and federal courts, despite police and prosecutorial misconduct, a stacked jury, and plenty of error.

Reggie was one of three African American youths sentenced to death at separate trials in St Louis City, Missouri, in 1992 and 1993 for the murder of two young white women in 1991.

The second African American youth, Antonio Richardson, who was just 16 years old, borderline retarded and neurologically impaired at the time of his offense had his death sentence reduced to life imprisonment in 2003.

The third African American youth, Marlin Gray (left) was executed at 12:07 a.m., Wednesday, October 26, 2005.

A fourth co-defendant, Daniel Winfrey, white, pled guilty to a lesser offense in return for testimony against his three black co-defendants. He has since been released from prison. Charges against the original suspect in the case, Thomas Cummins, also white, were dropped and he became a key prosecution witness before suing the police for brutality against him during interrogation.

Reginald Clemons and Marlin Gray independently made similar allegations of abuse against the same police officers, allegations which remain an issue in efforts to prevent Clemons execution.

Reginald Clemons was convicted primarily on the testimony of Cummins and Winfrey, and on his own allegedly coerced statement implicating himself in the crime. Concern about the limited foundations for this conviction is heightened by evidence that the jury that convicted him was likely even more pro-prosecution than research show the average US capital jury to be.
[V]acation of the death penalty is required when even one juror is improperly excluded. Here there were six…
US District Court judge, 2002
A federal judge ruled in 2002 that as a result of the improper exclusion of jurors Reginald Clemons should receive a new sentencing hearing or have his death sentence reduced to life imprisonment. However, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned this decision on the grounds that the claim had not been properly preserved for federal judicial review. One of the judges dissented against upholding the death sentence, however, pointing to the improper exclusion of a seventh juror. At the same time, both the District Court judge and the three judges on the Court of Appeals agreed that Reginald Clemons had been prosecuted by a prosecutor whose conduct at trial was “unprofessional”, “abusive and boorish”, but decided that this improper conduct had not prejudiced the defendant. The federal courts have also dismissed claims that Clemons‟ legal representation at trial was inadequate under the deferential lens federal appeal courts adopt under US law.

Clemons was already scheduled for execution in June 2009, but the execution was stayed by the Missouri Supreme Court which appointed a “special master” judge to examine the case after his lawyers raised doubts about the reliability of his conviction and questions about the proportionality of his death sentence.


Call on Governor Nixon to stop the execution of Reggie Clemons

Download the petition to gather more signatures

Dowload the Fact Sheet

What's wrong with the Reggie Clemons case?

No Physical Evidence
No physical evidence ties Clemons to the crime or the events leading up to it. The prosecution conceded that he neither killed the victims nor planned the crime.

Two Witnesses: 1 Former Suspect, 1 Co-Defendant
Two eyewitnesses were critical to the conviction. Thomas Cummins initially confessed to police that he murdered the victims, his cousins. After identifying Clemons and three other suspects, charges against him were dropped. On the day Clemons was sentenced to death, Cummins filed a police brutality lawsuit, resulting in a $150,000 settlement. Daniel Winfrey pled guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for testimony against Clemons and the other two.

Police Coercion Alleged
Clemons alleges that he confessed under the pressure of police brutality to raping one of the victims. He never confessed to the murders. He subsequently retracted his confession. Two other suspects independently alleged mistreatment by the police. Witnesses attest to Clemons’ face being swollen after his interrogation.

Prosecution Misconduct
Four federal judges have agreed that the prosecutor’s conduct was "abusive and boorish.” In his closing statement, he compared Clemons to two convicted serial killers, even though Clemons had no criminal record. He was 19 years old when the crime occurred. This behavior was part of a pattern that earned the prosecutor repeated criticism by state and federal courts.

Inadequate Legal Representation
Clemons’ lawyer was later suspended from practicing law following numerous complaints. His co-counsel had a fulltime job in another state when she represented Clemons. Another lawyer hired by Clemons’ mother to assist in the case said that as the trial loomed, it was clear the two trial lawyers had not done the necessary preparation.

Question Of Race
Race, particularly race of victim, biases the U.S. death penalty. Here, the murder victims were white, the three convicted defendants were black, and the two crucial witnesses were white. Blacks were disproportionately dismissed during jury selection, resulting in an unrepresentative jury given St. Louis’ sizeable black population.

A ‘Stacked’ Jury
In 2002, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Clemons’ death sentence should not stand because six prospective jurors had been improperly excluded at jury selection. A higher court overturned this ruling on technical grounds – saying that Clemons’ lawyer had not properly preserved the claim for federal judicial review.


Anonymous,  12:59  

I hope they ALL FRY for what they did!! They're special because they are black? NO. They are rapists! They are murderers! They are scumbags, and they deserve to burn in hell! And they WILL.

Anonymous,  05:52  

Anonymous is an ignorant person and the reason that this miscarriage of justice takes place. The whole point of this article is not that that Reggie Clemons is special because he is black but that justice was not served because he was black. Anonymous should really read some books, talk to more intelligent people and get out more.

Kelly 15:08  

They deserve to burn in hell! And they are murderers! I feel sorry for the victims, what a horrible way to die.

Anonymous,  15:18  

They deserve to burn in hell! I feel sorry for the victims, not for the murderers ....The color of the skin has nothing to do with this.4 kids pushed 3 other kids on a bridge, they die and now the murderers have to pay the consequence.End of the story.

ChrisJones 20:51  

Anonymous must have not read how the initial confession to murder came from the white defendant who became a prosecution witness against Clemons. Anonymous, do you believe in the Bible?

Anonymous,  14:50  

Wow! It always amazes me how there are some people who just jump on bandwagons simply because they're driving by. No matter what your stance on the death penalty is, it is wrong for anyone to turn a blind eye to cases like Reggie's (and Troy Davis'). Those of you who are saying he's a rapist and a murderer- did you read that he was not even convicted of murdering the victims? And Anonymous, you're right, they're not "special because they are black," but they also should not be wrongly sentenced to death "because they are black." Read more on the case. You can go to Amnesty International's website and get a lot of information. Be informed before you post ignorant statements.

Anonymous,  18:22  

Get the info correct..read the police reports and court records!! .this not black or white..this is GANG RAPE and.MURDER!!! race.does not know evil...inly evil know evil. Cummins did.not confess, after jumping from.a bridge.50 ft.to The.water, breaking his hip in The fall, almost drowning, fighting The.stong rushing current To try And stay alive,.finally.finding Help, dragged.to The police station..And accused over And over of This crime batteted,.broken, no sleep.For 40 hrs, witness To horrific rapes,..tom cummins said ”you.will belive what you.want To brluevr, so yeah, i did it” he made.that statement not only after.being tortured By these.4 pieces of.filth,.but then tramatized By The police. All cummins.wanted was it all To.stop.he refused.To ”confess on Paper.or tape” as.he was innocent. The police even tricked him To thinking they had.2.suspects in..custody who were.saying he did it with them...worn,.broken, mentaly And physically exhausted,.would you say what they wanted To hear.just To make them stop? Even For a few Minutes? No matter what.colour you are.

Anonymous,  10:24  

as a black female, i believe this website is a load of total crap. these men RAPED (you forgot to mention that) and MURDERED to young girls. What if these girls were your daughter, or your sisters, or your cousins, or your nieces? How would you feel? Even if these men were family members, i would be so disgusted in them, how could you stick up for them? These kinds of people make me sick. I dont care what color of skin you have, that doesnt matter, you are being prosecuted on WHAT YOU DID!!

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