By Chris King
Of The St. Louis American
In what could be the turning point in a landmark case, the Missouri Supreme Court has in effect opened the way for the presentation of new evidence in the case of Missouri death row inmate Reginald Clemons.
On Tuesday the Court appointed Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael W. Manners to serve as a special master in the case. This is a response to Clemons’ most recent petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
According to the order, Manners is appointed "with full power and authority to issue subpoenas" and to "compel production of books, papers, and documents and the attendance of witnesses."
For many years Clemons’ lawyers have bemoaned the incompetence of his counsel in his 1993 jury trial for the murders of Robin Kerry and Julie Kerry. Because of Clemons’ trial counsel’s spotty record introducing evidence, summoning witnesses and raising objections, Clemons has been severely limited in the appeals process.
Clemons’ petition for clemency from Gov. Jay Nixon makes this point and urges Nixon to take advantage of his opportunity to consider all of the evidence in the case, not just the trial record or the appellate material.
In effect, this order will enable the Missouri Supreme Court to enrich the material it can consider in ruling on Clemons’ appeal. Among many other developments sure to be brought to the attention of Manners is that a juror from the 1993 trial has since said she would not have voted for the death penalty had more complete evidence been presented in trial.
Also, as reported in The St. Louis American, prosecutor Nels C. Moss recently admitted on The Charles Jaco show that he withheld forensic evidence from Clemons’ defense counsel.
"Had the defense asked for it, it was theirs," Moss said.
In fact, as reported in The American, Clemons’ counsel specifically did ask for the clothing in a pretrial motion to compel discovery of evidence.
Clemons – whose execution had been set for June 17 – currently has a federal stay of execution while a federal appeals court considers a separate appeal based upon the Missouri Department of Corrections’ ability to administer lethal injection without violating the constituional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.