9.18.2012

One Step Closer To Freedom or Death? Hearing underway for Reginald Clemons as world prepares to mark anniversary of Troy Davis' execution

(Reginald Clemons appears in court on Sept. 17, 2012 for the special court hearing. Photos courtesy of Amnesty International)
On Monday, Sept. 17, the special court hearing to reexamine evidence in the Missouri death penalty case of Reginald "Reggie" Clemons started in St. Louis. As you all know, I have been covering this case for The Final Call newspaper the past several years. It's interesting that this case is being revisited as the world prepares to mark the anniversary of Troy Davis' murder that took place on Sept. 21, 2011. Will Clemons be the next Troy Davis?

This hearing could determine if Clemons is granted freedom or remains on deathrow. Despite no physical evidence linking him to the St. Louis crime, Clemons was convicted and sentenced to death in connection with the 1991 deaths of two White siblings, Robin and Julie Kerry, who drowned after falling from the Chain of the Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. Judge Michael Manners, the special master appointed to review the case by the Missouri Supreme Court, was asked to consider some evidence that had been held in cold storage at the police department’s crime lab. The attorney general’s office unveiled that the state had discovered three laboratory reports and certain physical evidence, including what is commonly referred to as a rape kit. The evidence had not been previously disclosed as part of Mr. Clemons’ case. Activist feel the Clemons case involves many lingering suspicions of police coercion, racial bias, inadequate legal representation and unreliable witness testimony.

"Today, Reggie Clemons begins the legal hearing of his life. For almost twenty years he has been awaiting execution in Missouri.I'm here in St. Louis to offer my support to Reggie and his family. I'm here, in the courtroom, watching this man fight for his life," said Laura Moye, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director for Amnesty International USA, in a released statement.


"This special hearing is an opportunity to re-examine old evidence and bring new evidence to light. When it's over, Reggie Clemons will be one step closer to ending his time on death row, or to death by lethal injection. The judge can make any number of recommendations to Missouri's Supreme Court ranging from granting Reggie a new trial to moving forward his execution," said Moye. "Being in a courtroom again reminds me of watching another man who was on trial for his life, despite the serious flaws in the case against him. His name was Troy Davis."

According to a press release I received, one year after Georgia executed Davis, despite serious doubt about his conviction and an unprecedented public outcry, Amnesty International USA and the NAACP will hold a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 20 in D.C. to demand government action to prevent future wrongful death sentences. Davis’s sister Kimberly Davis will join leaders of the two organizations to discuss concerns about government misconduct in other cases and the impact of the Davis execution.

Additionally, information outlining claims of government misconduct in 10 recent capital cases, including police coercion of false confessions and the withholding of key evidence, will be released by Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA, and Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP, the two major national grassroots organizations that fought to spare Davis’s life. In addition to calling for action at both the federal (Justice Department) level and by Georgia officials on the Davis case, the two leaders will address the Reggie Clemons case in Missouri, the “crisis of confidence” in American justice stemming from the Davis execution and momentum toward abolishing the death penalty. Events Friday marking the anniversary are being held across the country. The Davis family, including his two sisters, niece and nephew, will speak at a public commemoration in Washington at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, 1525 Newton St. NW. “I Am Still Troy Davis” is the theme, reflecting the campaign slogan to stop his execution.

I will continue to post updates as the hearing continues for Clemons.. What can you do today? Help us shine a bright light on his case so that Missouri doesn't repeat Georgia's terrible injustice! Go the Amnesty's website and sign the petition.

Free Reggie Clemons!