Prosecution of Reggie Clemons in Missouri to be Subject of Special Death Penalty Hearing

Reggie Clemons has been on Missouri’s death row for 19 years for the murder of two young white women. He has already come close to execution, and one of the co-defendants in the case has been executed. Clemons’ conviction was based partly on his confession to rape that he says was beaten out of him by the police. Other testimony against Clemons came from his co-defendants. Of the four men charged with the murders, three were black and one was white. The white co-defendant is already out on parole. Because of doubts that have arisen about the validity of his conviction, a special hearing will be held on September 17 to determine whether crucial errors were made in prosecuting Clemons. The special master presiding at the hearing will then present a recommendation to the Missouri Supreme Court. Clemons’ lawyers are expected to present new evidence that supports his assertion that he was physically beaten into making a confession, and that the coerced confession should not have been admitted at trial. Other issues likely to be raised include the prosecution’s failure to disclose a rape kit to defense lawyers, and that the manner in which the jury was selected was later ruled unconstitutional. (Ed Pilkington of The Guardian discusses his investigation into the case in the accompanying video.)

A relative of the victims’ family, Jeanine Cummins, said both young women were adamantly opposed to the death penalty. Cummins herself believes the death penalty should be abolished because it only brings further suffering to families such as hers who have already been through so much.

(E. Pilkington, “Death penalty on trial: should Reggie Clemons live or die?,” The Guardian (London), August 21, 2012). See Arbitrariness and Innocence. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Victims.