Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Facing Execution: The Story of Reggie Clemmons

I gather that most of you are unfamiliar with the story of Reginald Clemons and that is okay. I did not learn about his case until earlier today. He is convicted of being an accomplice in the murders of Julie and Robin Kerry. Anti-death penalty activists are fighting his execution on priciple but also because this case involves accusations of serious judicial misconduct, including allegations of police brutality and ineffective counsel.

The following excerpt is an official report from Clemon's report:

Reggie Clemons was sentenced to death in St. Louis as an accomplice in the 1991 murder of two young white women, Julie and Robin Kerry, who plunged from the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. Two other black youths were also convicted, including Marlin Gray (executed in 2005). Clemons has consistently maintained his innocence. His case illustrates many of the flaws in the U.S. death penalty system.
Shortly after a 2009 execution date was stayed, the Missouri Supreme Court assigned a judge (a "Special Master") to investigate the reliability of his conviction and proportionality of his sentence. Amnesty International urges the state of Missouri to recognize the serious problems with Reggie Clemons' case and to commute his death sentence.
From Amnesty International:

"Reggie Clemons was sentenced to death in St. Louis as an accomplice to a 1991 murder. There was no physical evidence and since allegations have arisen of police coercion, prosecutorial misconduct, and a ‘stacked’ jury in the Clemons case. Despite so many lingering questions, Missouri is still planning to execute Reggie Clemons."
Last week Wednesday, we witnessed another state execute a brother by the name of Troy Davis despite a serious case that could be made for reasonable doubt. Millions gathered either in Georgia or in front of our computers and televisions, standing in allegiance with Troy Davis as he became the victim of our country's cruel and unusual interpretation of "justice." Execution has little to do with obtaining justice and a whole lot to do with getting revenge. It's justice from the viewpoint of a vindictive, thirteen year-old girl.

Unfortunately, people are always going to be wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit. It's a sad reality. But there is a difference between having a person sitting in a cell for 20 years when wrongly convicted and having him, oh I dunno, PUT TO DEATH! To be honest, I'm not sure if Troy Davis or Reginald Clemons are completely innocent. But isnt' that the point? If intelligent people can debate their innocence then it is reprehensible to execute them.

Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row because of evidence that they were wrongly convicted. And while black people make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, we make up more than 40 percent of the nation’s death row prisoners. A 2001 University of North Carolina study found that killing a white victim is 3.5 times more likely to lead to a death sentence than killing a black victim.

Shocked by that last statistc? Well you shouldn't be. The lives of black people (men and women) have been degraded and devalued since the country's beginnings. Don't believe me? Here's a little history of two cases involving the death penalty and the black people who were killed.

Firstly, there is the story of Lena Baker. The mother of three was electrocuted after being convicted for killing E. B. Knight, a white mill operator she was hired to care for after he broke his leg. She was 44 and the only woman ever executed in Georgia’s electric chair. He threatened to shoot her if she tried to leave.
Baker said she had grabbed Knight's gun and shot him when he raised a metal bar to strike her. Self-defense? No, not to the all white, male jury who convicted her for capital murder. She was granted a pardon sixty years later, suggesting a verdict of manslaughter. If given a fair trial and appropriate verdict, Lena Baker would have served fifteen years in jail.

Then there is the story of George Junius Stinney, Jr., the fourteen year old who is the youngest person to ever be executed in this country. He was accused of killing two white girls, 11 year old Betty June Binnicker and 8 year old Mary Emma Thames, by beating them with a railroad spike then dragging their bodies to a ditch in central South Carolina. The girls were found a day after they disappeared following a massive manhunt. Stinney was arrested a few hours later, white men in suits taking him away.

Considering the lack of documents from the case, including a transcript of the trial, it is likely that detectives coerced Stinney to say what they wanted to hear. The defense never called any witnesses and an appeal was never made. He was even denied family visits, forcing the 14 year old had to endure the trial and death alone.

So what's the gameplan people? The middle class is eroding, are federal government is in gridlock, gas is $3.87, storefronts are still boarded up along w/ foreclosed homes and black men are still getting killed by our justice system. Do we just type angry shit on social networking sites or are we going to have a gameplan?
You don't have to have it figured it out just yet but you can start by signing this petition stopping the execution of Reggie Clemons. We could not save Troy Davis, but maybe we can make the ugly history of death penalty just that, history.

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