Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sleepless in Potosi: Reginald Clemons gets the good news

By Chris King
Of The St. Louis American

Missouri death row inmate Reginald Clemons said he could “only half sleep” last night after hearing from his lawyers that there would be an opportunity to present new evidence in his case.
In a shocking turn of events, on Tuesday the Missouri Supreme Court appointed Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael W. Manners to serve as a special master – a kind of independent adjunct judge – in the case.

Manners was appointed “with full power and authority to issue subpoenas” and to “compel production of books, papers and documents and the attendance of witnesses” – which opens the way for the presentation of new evidence.

Clemons greeted the news by thanking the community for pressuring authorities and The St. Louis American for reporting on the documentary evidence of his trial to inform the community of the facts.

Since he is currently placed on “administration segregation confinement” – commonly known as “the hole” – at Potosi Correctional Center, Clemons has not yet spoken to his family about the unexpected good news.

When told that his mother, Vera Thomas, was so happy when she heard the news that she wanted to “run around the park,” Clemons laughed.

Ultimately, he placed credit for this amazing new opportunity with a higher authority.

“God makes the difference,” Clemons said.

“When God makes the difference, you see nothing logical, nothing expected – everything is unexpected. The appointment of this special master – that is unexpected. Especially coming from the Missouri Supreme Court, which established my execution date in the first place.”

Clemons was sentenced to die on June 17 when a federal stay of execution gave the state’s high court time to make this apparent reversal of thinking on his case.

Clemons sees critical significance in the fact that the judge appointed to gather new evidence is not from St. Louis, where his case was investigated and prosecuted.

"I think it’s important that they appointed a judge from Kansas City,” Clemons said.

“I think it shows the Supreme Court realizes there might be bias in the St. Louis political arena regarding this case.”

Given the religious connotations of the technical term for the appointed judge in this case, it sounded highly ironic when Clemons said, “I thank God for the appointment of this special master.”

Clemons has never confessed to the 1991 murders of Robin Kerry and Julie Kerry. He was prosecuted for their murders with no physical evidence, on the basis of testimony by one witness who entered into a plea bargain and another who initially had confessed to a role in the girls’ deaths – and who received an $150,000 settlement for a police brutality claim he filed on the day Clemons was sentenced to death.

After Clemons’ initial interrogation by St. Louis Metropolitan Police detectives, Judge Michael David ordered him taken to an emergency room because he was visibly injured. When released from the hospital, Clemons filed his own claim of police brutality. He claimed that detectives Chris Pappas and Thomas Brauer denied him counsel and beat him into giving a rehearsed confession of rape.Clemons never has been prosecuted for rape, though he has formally asked to be, and he never confessed to murder.

“I think God is using me in this situation to bring about divine justice,” Clemons said.

“Divine justice is something beyond my understanding, so I have to have faith.”

Judge Manners, the special master in the Clemons case, was selected as best district judge in Missouri in 2008 and 2007. His assistant told The American this morning that Manners is on vacation and nowhere near prepared to comment on his appointment or the case.


Image of the Potosi Correctional Center from its webpage.


Stefene said...

You done good, Chris ... I read this and got all teary eyed. That frog was right.

EMP said...

I have read the book and studied the case and to me, the death penalty is very deserved! I am a believer in the death penalty and if these were my sisters or family I would want the death penalty for this criminal. When speaking about God: He was there to make sure 1 of the victims lived so that the guilty men could be put to justice!