In April 1991 in St. Louis, Missouri, two young white women plunged from a bridge into the Mississippi River. Three African American youths, who may well be innocent, are paying for the crime – all sentenced to death. One man has been executed, one had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment and the third, Reggie Clemons, sits on death row right now, at risk of execution.
The case against Reggie is one with no physical evidence, two highly questionable witnesses – both of whom were initially charged with the crime – and a trail of alleged police coercion, misconduct from lawyers on both sides of the case, and racial inequities so sharp that a growing number of human and civil rights supporters, including actor, Danny Glover, are taking notice and calling for immediate justice.
Earlier this week, we released an unflinching, new report3 that exposes the long list of the errors and gaping holes in Reggie’s case. At the beginning of the list is the alleged police brutality against Reggie and other suspects during interrogation that resulted in a lawsuit and $150,000 settlement, but was not enough to halt criminal proceedings.
Reggie’s trial was just as flawed. The brazen conduct of an overzealous prosecutor, all too common in death penalty cases which are highly politicized, raised a number of red flags. Four federal judges even agreed that the prosecutor’s conduct was “abusive and boorish”.
Furthermore, Reggie’s own lawyer was later suspended from practicing law following numerous complaints. His co-counsel had a full-time job in another state when she represented Reggie.
If that wasn’t enough, our report also uncovers the “stacked” jury, which did not come close to representing the racial composition of St. Louis – blacks were disproportionately dismissed during jury selection.
When you add up all of these factors, you begin to see how outrageous it is that Reggie is still sitting on death row after 17 years.
Reggie’s case contains an overwhelming number of factors commonly found in cases of wrongful conviction, where people who once sat on death row were later set free because they were found to be innocent:
– Inadequate legal representation
– Police and prosecutorial misconduct
– Perjured testimony
– Racial bias
In many ways, it is also reminiscent of the Troy Davis case – a man trapped on death row despite the fact that the case against him has completely fallen apart. Just as our support has made all the difference in the world for Troy – most recently helping to grant him a new hearing4, where he will finally be able to present evidence that may prove his innocence – we can generate the same momentum for Reggie, but we must act quickly.
Thank you for taking action to protect human rights.
Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA