Monday, March 8, 2010

Rape kit found in Clemons case

By Chris King
Of The St. Louis American
This morning (March 8) the Special Master appointed to review the case of Missouri death row inmate Reginald Clemons was informed of crucial new evidence.
In a fax from the office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, Judge Michael Manners was informed that a rape kit and three laboratory reports on the rape kit had been discovered by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and turned over to Koster’s office.
This would have to be evidence collected from the corpse identified as Julie Kerry. Clemons was convicted as an accomplice in the 1991 murders of Julie and Robin Kerry, who allegedly were raped then thrown from the Chain of Rocks Bridge. The body of Robin Kerry was never recovered.
The letter to Manners states that the "State of Missouri requests that a hearing be scheduled to determine an appropriate protocol for the testing and dissemination of the test results of the biological evidence in question."
In a pretrial motion, Clemons’ defense attorneys in his 1993 jury trial requested any evidence collected from the corpse of Julie Kerry, but none was provided by prosecutor Nels C. Moss.
In the letter faxed to Judge Manners this morning, Stephen D. Hawke of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office said that on March 2, 2010, Moss "informed two assistant attorneys general that he had recently been told of the existence of a rape kit located at the St. Louis Police Department Crime Lab. Mr. Moss stated that he had no prior knowledge of this rape kit, raising the inference that the evidence had not been previously disclosed as part of the state’s case against Mr. Clemons."
Clemons never has been tried for the charges of rape, though those charges – and testimony about the alleged rapes – were presented as evidence in his trial on the charges of murder as an accomplice. Further, the charges of rape were allowed as a "sentence enhancer" when Moss argued to the jury that they should sentence Clemons to death – as they did.
On the day Clemons was sentenced to death, Moss’ star witness, Thomas Cummins, received $150,000 in a settlement with the St. Louis police. Cummins is a cousin of the Kerry girls who confessed to a role in their deaths before Clemons or his three codefendants were interrogated or charged.
Cummins claimed that his confession was coerced. Clemons and his codefendants later claimed that their confessions also were corceed, alleging very similar abuse on the part of St. Louis detectives. Clemons’ allegation of police abuse was not allowed as evidence in his original jury trial.
On June 30, 2009, Manners was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court as Special Master with full subpoena powers to gather new evidence in the Clemons case and make a recommendation to the Court in response to Clemons’ most recent writ of habeas corpus.
The same Court had set an execution date of June 17, 2009 for Clemons, before a federal court issued a stay of execution while it ruled on a procedural matter relating to an appeal concerning the State of Missouri’s competence in administering its execution protocols.
Also in June, while being interrogated by Redditt Hudson of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, Moss disclosed on The Charles Jaco Show that he once had in his possession clothing retrieved from the body of Julie Kerry.
Moss told Hudson that if Clemons’ defense had asked for the evidence, "it was theirs." In fact, they had asked for it in the pre-trial motion for discovery.
In that interview, Moss also implied that the evidence had been tested and that he was aware of the test results. Moss said, "What was left on her was so water-soaked that nothing could be made out."
This claim is at variance with what he told the State of Missouri in his March 2, 2010 deposition, according to the letter faxed this morning to Manners.
A hearing on the Clemons case has been set for May 10.


Photo of Chain of Rocks Bridge from someone's Picasa site.

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