A Travesty Of Justice Continues: The Reggie Clemmons Story
The recent acceptance of a plea bargain by Reggie Clemmons has removed him from death row and even opened up the possibility of parole somewhere in the future but Reggie continues to assert his innocence in the deaths of two young women almost 30 years ago. The plea is being touted by the prosecution as an admission of guilt while they steadfastly ignore the beatings by the police and multiple acts of misconduct by the prosecution that lead to the original conviction.
Today we will air an interview host Keith Brown El recorded with Reggie Clemmons about his case, why he took the plea deal and where he goes from here. Then in the second part of the broadcast Keith speaks with Jamala Rogers, a long time human rights activist in St Louis who has been very involved with the Free Reggie Clemmons Committee. She will talk about how the plea has effected supporters and what is next for his supporters.
Here is a short description of what has happened in Reggie’s case
Reggie was sentenced to death for the 1991 murders of Robin and Julie Kerry, who drowned after plunging from the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. At the time of his arrest, Reggie was a 19 year-old with no criminal history. He was among a group of four young men (ranging from ages 15 to 23 years) who encountered the Kerry sisters and their cousin, Thomas Cummins (all white), on the bridge. Cummins first confessed to the crime and was immediately charged.
The spotlight soon shifted to the three African-Americans and the nightmare began. After exhausting all legal remedies, Reggie received an execution date for June 17, 2009. Reggie felt he had to confessed to rape to stop the police from beating him to death. The trial was rife with prosecutorial misconduct; inept legal representation and self-serving testimony by the police’s first suspect, Thomas Cimmins. Reggie Clemmons had no prior criminal record. Marlin Gray, another African-American charged and convicted was executed in 2005 for the deaths despite a strong possibility he wasn’t guilty and Reggie himself had an execution date set in 2009 until his appeal forced a stay.
On November 24, 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court threw out not only his sentence but also his murder conviction in its entirety. They sent the case back to the state, who has sixty days to decide whether to retry the case. During the original trial in 1991, the State of Missouri failed to disclose exculpatory evidence. This evidence was not heard until a Special Master Judge was appointed to review the case. Over several days of hearings in September 2012, the Special Master Judge allowed testimony regarding the possible police brutality and coerced confession. At the conclusion of those hearings, the Judge studied the testimony and after many months made a recommendation to the Missouri Supreme Court who finally ruled in Reggie’s favor. On November 24, 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court made its ruling. Chief Justice Breckenridge noted the special master’s finding that “the state’s failure to disclose evidence was prejudicial.” The Court ruled 4-3 to vacate his sentence and conviction completely. It was the council of his lawyers that convinced him to take a plea that they claim does not admit guilt but would remove him from death row. It was the uncertainty of how a jury that was not biased could be impaneled that in part determined Reggie to take the plea.
For more on Reggie’s case: http://www.justiceforreggie.com/