Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yet Another Death Row Inmate Is Innocent

in missouri:

Governor Nixon, we the undersigned believe that the facts surrounding the murders of Julie and Robin Kerry on the Chain of Rocks Bridge in 1991 have yet to be fully uncovered. Beatings, forced confessions by the police, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective counsel and other factors make this a classic case of reasonable doubt. Reggie Clemons has not received due process and justice yet he sits on Missouri’s death row awaiting execution. Please exercise your authority to halt Reggie’s execution and allow the facts to be thoroughly uncovered and reviewed in the case. We cannot let another innocent person be wrongfully executed.

Reggie Clemons on Death Row
in Missouri:
A Case of Reasonable Doubt
Race, Ineffective Counsel, Police Brutality and
Prosecutorial Misconduct Characterize a Classic Case
of Reasonable Doubt

Reggie Clemons is a 33 year-old African-American man sentenced to death in Missouri after an unfair trial biased in favor of execution. There are many significant and troubling questions about who committed the crime for which Reggie was sentenced to death. Reggie’s case is filled with many injustices, including police brutality,
gross prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective defense counsel. Reggie was sentenced to death for the 1991 rape and murder of two young women, who drowned after plunging from the Chain of the Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. At the time of his arrest, Reggie was a teenager with no criminal history, living with his family in suburban St. Louis and studying to become a mechanic. He was among a group of four youths (all teens except one) who encountered the victims and their cousin, Thomas Cummins,on the Chain of the Rocks Bridge. Even though prosecutors conceded that Reggie neither pushed the women nor planned the crime, he was convicted on the theory that he was an accomplice. There was no physical evidence linking Reggie to the crime for which he received the death penalty: no fingerprints, no DNA, no hair or fiber samples.

The police charge the victims’ cousin, Thomas Cummins, with the crime but drop the charges and instead target three black teenagers. The police first arrested Thomas Cummins for the crime. Cummins called police to the scene and told them he and the Kerry sisters had driven to the abandoned bridge to look at graffiti on the bridge deck. Cummins said that while on the bridge, he and his cousins had met four male
youths, three blacks and one white. He claimed that the youths had raped his cousins and robbed him. Thereafter, Cummins stated, one of the youths pushed the sisters off the bridge into the river, and he was ordered to jump in after them, which he did. Cummins claims that he eventually swam to the Missouri shore where he hailed a passing truck driver. But Cummins had no injuries and his hair was clean, dry, and neatly-combed. The police and the Coast Guard were skeptical of Cummins’s story. After consulting with the Missouri Water Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard, the police doubted that Cummins could have survived — at least without serious
injury — the fall, which they estimated at 80 feet, into near-freezing water with rough surf and a strong current. According to the Coast Guard, “to accomplish the feat that [Cummins] claimed to have done, i.e.: jump into the river from the bridge, swim against the strong current and through the extremely strong whirlpool to reach the Missouri bank, would be extraordinary.” The police noted that “there had been several changes in Thomas’ statement as to what actually took place on the bridge.” Police skepticism grew after Cummins took a lie detector test and his
answers were found to be deceptive. When Cummins’s father, Gene, was given his son’s
polygraph test results, he told police that “he was afraid of that,” adding that when Thomas was an adolescent he would concoct elaborate stories. Gene Cummins later told the police that “he was bothered by the feeling that Thomas was not telling the truth.” Thomas Cummins eventually implicated himself in the death of his cousins, stating that the two women had fallen from the bridge as a result of an altercation that began after he made a sexual advance toward one of them. The police arrested and charged Cummins with the murder of his cousins. The arrest of Reggie Clemons. On April 7-8, 1991, Reggie and co-defendants Antonio Richardson, Marlin Gray and Daniel Winfrey were arrested for the murder of the Kerry sisters. The police traced a flashlight found on the bridge to 16 year-old Antonio Richardson. After initial denials, the police obtained a statement from Richardson in which he implicated himself and three other local youths: Daniel Winfrey, Marlin Gray and Reggie. Cummins was subsequently released from police custody. Reggie was beaten by the police and coerced into making a statement. Two police detectives
picked up Reggie, without a warrant, at his home in suburban St. Louis and took him to police headquarters for questioning. Although Reggie asked for an attorney, he was denied one. Instead, Reggie was subjected to several hours of threats and police beatings. He was slapped, punched in the head, choked and beaten about the chest. As a result of these beatings, Reggie’s face became visibly swollen. After five hours of violent interrogation, Reggie made a coerced statement in which he admitted to the rapes but denied pushing the girls off the bridge. He was
subsequently arrested and charged with rape and murder, although the rape charges were dismissed. At his arraignment, a state judge saw that Reggie was injured and sent him to the hospital. Cummins later retracted his confession, saying that he had been beaten by the police and coerced into a confession. Like Cummins, Reggie and his co-defendant, Marlin Gray, claimed that they had been beaten and threatened by the St. Louis police and were coerced into giving scripted confessions. While Cummins was released and eventually settled his police brutality lawsuit with the City for $150,000, Reggie and Marlin Gray’s allegations of police brutality were ignored. Instead, they were charged with a capital crime and ultimately sentenced to death.

Inexperienced lawyers provide ineffective counsel.

Reggie’s trial counsel was grossly ineffective. The attorneys who agreed to represent Reggie were a couple who had been married and had recently divorced. They had little death penalty experience and did hardly any pre-trial investigation. Six months prior to trial, the lawyer who was responsible for conducting all of the pre-trial investigation moved to California and took a full-time job at a corporation doing tax work, and worked at her new job and other cases during
the remaining pre-trial period of Reggie’s case. Neither Reggie nor his family was told of this move until a week after it occurred. Prior to the trial, the lawyer only made six trips to Missouri, dividing her time between Reggie’s case and approximately ten others, including a civil rights case which went to trial. Reggie’s mother, Mrs. Vera Thomas, who acted as his liaison with his lawyers, found her essentially unavailable for consultation. Reggie’s second lawyer was so unprepared that he did not even read the police reports or interview any witnesses prior to the trial. Although co-defendant Marlin Gray had been tried in
October 1992 by the same prosecutor who would try Reggie’s case, using the same witnesses, Reggie’s lawyers did not even obtain a transcript of testimony in the Gray case until several days after Reggie’s trial began. As a result of their ineffectiveness, Reggie’s lawyers failed to uncover facts and evidence that
would have been uncovered by minimally competent defense lawyers. At the sentencing phase, they failed to prepare, investigate and develop evidence. In fact, they were so ill-prepared that Reggie’s mother, who is not an attorney, was asked to prepare written questions to be asked of certain witnesses. If Reggie’s attorneys focused the amount of attention that a reasonably competent attorney would have on this stage of the proceedings, a strong case for life could have been presented. It was not. During the trial Reggie’s counsel even stopped making objections, claiming that they became tired of being overruled. Eventually, one of Reggie’s lawyers would have his law license suspended after repeatedly being disciplined for neglecting his duties to his clients.

Race and unfairness undermine the pursuit of justice. Nels Moss engaged in a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct that deprived Reggie of his Constitutional rights. The prosecutor’s goal was to secure as many convictions as possible, and
he ultimately obtained death sentences against all three African-American defendants, offering a plea to the only white defendant in the case. He improperly struck qualified prospective jurors, leading to the creation of a jury predisposed to convict Reggie and sentence him to death. Moss prevented a key witness from testifying in Reggie’s favor by threatening him and intimidating him into refusing to testify. Reggie was tried by an almost all white jury, after Nels Moss used tactics to remove African-Americans from serving on the jury. The trial judge noted that his past experience in St. Louis had involved an almost equal proportion of African-Americans on juries, and he recognized that a disproportionate number of African-Americans had been stricken from Reggie’s jury. The State presented only three pieces of evidence that in any way linked Reggie to the crime. The first was the testimony of alleged victim Thomas Cummins, who had earlier confessed to
the crime himself and who could not attribute any specific wrongdoing to Reggie. The second was the testimony of Daniel Winfrey, the one white co-defendant, who sought and was granted a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony. Winfrey had made prior inconsistent statements to the police and in Gray’s trial and told a jailhouse friend that he would lie to obtain a plea bargain, but this was kept from the jury by Moss’s tactic of witness intimidation. Finally, the State offered Reggie’s audio taped statement that was obtained under coercion after being
beaten and threatened by the police and in violation of his constitutional rights. Nowhere in the statement does Reggie admit to having committed the murders. Moss chose to conclude this highly publicized, racially charged case with inflammatory appeals to the jury’s emotions and religious sensibilities. Moss misrepresented the evidence, including falsely suggesting that Reggie had a history of criminal activity. Moss even flouted a specific court order by inflaming the jury with an improper and highly prejudicial comparison of Reggie — who had no criminal record or history of having harmed anyone — to two notorious serial killers. So severe was the prosecutorial misconduct in Reggie’s case that the prosecutor was held in criminal contempt and fined for his conduct. Two federal courts later found that Moss’s actions in Reggie’s case were “abusive and boorish.” The misconduct on the part of the prosecutor was not isolated: a recent study by the Center for Public Integrity found Moss to be one of the most criticized prosecutors in the country who repeatedly broke the rules. Many of Reggie’s claims have never been heard in a court of law because of procedural rules that have barred the presentation of important evidence. Notwithstanding, the evidence that has been examined led two federal judges to vote to overturn his death sentence and find that Reggie was
denied a fair trial.

A loving father and son and productive inmate. Reggie is the loving father of a 14 year-old daughter, Pauline, with whom he corresponds on a regular basis. He is in regular contact with his family, including his parents, Vera and Pastor Reynolds Thomas. While in prison, Reggie has worked hard to remain a productive member of
society. He has held several jobs, including a position in the law library. While on death row, he has been actively involved in a suicide watch program (that aided prison officials in monitoring other inmates), and has become a member of the NAACP. Reggie has pursued intellectual endeavors as well —he obtained his General Equivalency Diploma while on death row, and is a writer of poems and fiction and the creator of a number of inventions.

Reggie has exhausted all of his legal appeals. His only recourse now is clemency.
Reggie Clemons with his mother, Vera Thomas.

ACT NOW! Support the Justice for
Reggie Clemons Campaign!
For more information about how you can help, call (314) 367-5959 or

Friday, November 18, 2011

CQ Behind The Lines

I know I haven't posted in quite a while...sometimes life has a way of getting in the way.

By David C. Morrison, Special to Congressional Quarterly
War surplus: Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan wars may find jobs operating surveillance technologies stateside for CBP . . . Vote of absolutely no confidence: Ex-DHS chief Tom Ridge "would be the worst person you could think of to clean up the mess at Penn State" . . . Comedy of terrors: Chataugua Airlines pilot accidentally locks himself in bathroom of LaGuardia-bound plane and sparks terror scare. These and other stories lead today's homeland security coverage.

DHS balks at Texas lawmakers’ proposals to redirect equipment returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to the U.S.-Mexican border, fearing CBP could be saddled with the long-term costs of operating high-tech systems, The Houston Chronicle’s Stewart Powell relates. On the other hand, vets returning from those fronts may find jobs operating satellite comm, blimps and other surveillance technologies stateside for border control, Nextgov’s Aliya Sternstein hears a DHS official testifying.

Homies: “For what it’s worth, DHS rejects the accusation [that it has] been coordinating Occupy Wall Street evictions with local law enforcement agencies,” Salon’s Peter Finocchiaro relates. In his new book, veteran Dem pol George McGovern calls for TSA and the entire DHS to be eliminated, The Hill’s Keith Laing recounts. DHS launched a review yesterday of all deportation cases currently before the immigration courts with the goal of speeding ejections of convicted criminals and sparing those without a felony record, The New York Times’ Julia Preston reports. The budget being proposed by the House for DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate “is so bare bones it would essentially terminate most research and development,” National Defense Magazine’s Stew Magnuson hears undersecretary Tara O’Toole testifying.

Feds: “When it comes to the war on terror, the GOP has struggled to find an Obama soft spot . . . Al Qaeda has been defeated in Afghanistan and the Taliban is on the ropes,” USA Today’s DeWayne Wickham writes. The White House yesterday threatened to veto a defense authorization bill over a provision forbidding stateside criminal trials for terrorism suspects, The Hill’s Jeremy Herb relates. Justice’s civil rights probe into Alabama’s draconian illegal immigration measure has led to a state-federal deadlock over access to children’s enrollment data, The Washington Post’s Jerry Markon mentions. California and Texas lawmakers formed a rare alliance to secure $240 million in federal funds to pay for jailing illegal immigrants despite a congressional drive to reduce Washington’s red ink, the Los Angeles Times’ Richard Simon relates.

State and local: A top ICE official has accepted responsibility for his agency failing to notify Milford (Mass.) Police that a witness in a hot-button DUI case had cut off his monitoring bracelet and gone walk-about, the Daily News updates. In West Milford, N.J. yesterday, DHS agents reviewed more than 15 apparent attacks on local water and sewage facilities since summer, The Bergen County Record records. South Texas law enforcement officials and Democratic congressmen debunk claims by Republicans that the border has become a war zone, The Houston Chronicle, again, recounts — while Calexico’s KXO Radio News reports a delegation of Southwest border officials meeting yesterday with DHS’s Janet Napolitano and CBP’s Alan Bersin. A Georgia man was arrested for allegedly placing “Car Bomb” and “50-Foot Clearance IED” signs on a woman’s disabled car parked near his home, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution records.

Bugs ‘n bombs: The Lansing, Mich., Police Board of Commissioners was treated to a special presentation on bioterrorism at a Tuesday meeting, WLNS 6 News notes. Scientists and security specialists are in the midst of a fierce debate over airing data about experiments on a strain of bird flu virus that made it more contagious and thus a powerful potential bioterror weapon, NPR reports. The cybersecurity of the North American power grid is “in a state of near chaos,” The Montreal Gazette sees a white paper from a U.S. energy consultancy declaring. The Michigan State Police bomb squad was called out this week to investigate the discovery of an explosive device on the grounds of Oakland Southwest Airport, Detroit’s WDIV News relates.

Close air support: A Chataugua Airlines pilot who accidentally locked himself in the bathroom of his LaGuardia-bound plane caused a terror scare, The New York Post reports. “Jersey Shore” reality starlet Jwoww’s complaints to the contrary, TSA insists she was not singled out for an individual “enhanced screening” at a Fargo, N.D. checkpoint, Government Security News updates. A TSA officer at O’Hare Airport has been fired for posting anti-Muslim, racist statements on his Facebook page, Chicago’s ABC 7 News notes. Permitting holders of federal security clearances to access expedited airport security lines, as suggested by TSA’s John Pistole, “overlooks some disturbing implications,” Fierce Homeland Security frowns. Canada’s airport security agency is collecting too much info about innocent travelers and failing to protect it properly, Postmedia News reports a federal privacy watchdog finding. With the E.U. having decided this week that full-body scanners pose a risk to passenger health to the point that they cannot be used, “TSA is not pleased,” SlashGear says.

Borders & Papers: Federal and state authorities “are working hard to stay ahead of a new and dangerous trend: fake IDs that are so good it can be very difficult to tell them from the real thing,” Cleveland’s FOX 8 News leads. Washington’s “Whatcom County is almost all farmland [but] that calm has been jarred by a bursting paramilitary force,” as Border Patrollers in CBP’s Blaine Sector swell to 327 agents from 45 in 2000, The Seattle Times tells. DHS, the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies “are all coming together to ensure border towns such as ours remain safe,” Laredo’s KGNS 8 News notes. A nondescript white warehouse in southern California hid a sophisticated smuggling tunnel used to transport tons of cannabis into the United States, CNN notes — and check The New York Times: “Cat-and-Mole Games on the Mexican Border.”

Ivory (Watch) Towers: A Harvard Law School professor criticizes the “homeland security feel” of the university’s lockdown of Harvard Yard against the 99 Percent movement, ThinkProgress relates. Former Pennsylvania governor and DHS chief Tom Ridge “would be the worst person you could think of to clean up the mess at Penn State,” The Philadelphia Daily News inveighs. A fugitive animal rights terrorist believed to be hiding in western Massachusetts would be within striking distance of several research labs that use animals in experiments, the Boston Herald reports.

Courts and rights: An Idaho man accused of firing two shots at the White House last week has been charged with attempting to assassinate President Obama or his staff, The Associated Press reports — while The Christian Science Monitor predicts a second look at White House security procedures. A white supremacist convicted last month of a gun charge related to a domestic terrorism plot has been indicted for an alleged identity theft scheme, The Spokane Spokesman Review relates. A judge denied bond to four North Georgia seniors accused of plotting to bomb federal buildings and disperse the toxin ricin because they “may still intend to harm federal authorities,” the Journal-Constitution recounts.

Rulings reconsidered: A lawyer representing the first person ever convicted for violating narco-terrorism laws told a D.C. federal appeals court yesterday that the evidence in the case was insufficient to support the charges, Legal Times relates. “A closer examination of the evidence and the way in which the FBI carried out the investigation casts serious doubts about the Fort Dix Five’s convictions,” a Guardian op-ed objects. A commonly invoked anti-hacking law is so overbroad that it criminalizes conduct as innocuous as using a fake user name on Facebook, The Register hears a legal authority attesting.

Over there: A Texas man convicted Monday of seeking to abet al Qaeda terrorists attempted to enter Canada a couple years ago but was turned back at the border, Postmedia News learns. Urging aspiring jihadists to emulate its practices, a 144-page field manual being distributed by Afghanistan’s Haqqani network gives special praise to al Qaeda as a small Muslim group that “terrifies” its enemies, Newsweek notes. The intentions of the tiny emirate of Qatar “remain murky to its neighbors and even allies — some see a Napoleon complex, others an Islamist agenda,” The New York Times spotlights. Libya’s secularists warn that Qatar is using its leadership position to bring its Islamist allies to power, FrontPage Magazine, relatedly, frowns. Anti-terror experts met Thursday in Algiers to discuss ways of preventing the financing of armed militant groups, focusing on north Africa’s Sahel region, Agence France-Presse reports.

Holy Wars: That Balkan jihadists “are eager to wage holy war reveals the moral depravity and spiritual darkness at the heart of Islamic fundamentalism,” Jeffrey T. Kuhner comments in The Washington Times. “Travel for many from the Middle East has often been quite difficult, but following 9/11 and the Arab Spring, it seems to be worsening,” The Kuwait Times tells. “In the past 20 years, prison conversions to Islam and the Internet have become the two most common ways people become associated with extremist groups,” Futurity Research News relays from a new academic study. Target-hardening measures taken by Jewish organizations receiving DHS dollars include upgrades to surveillance and alarm systems, stronger doors and windows, shatter-resistant windows and security barriers in front of buildings, Homeland Security Today tells.

Such sweet torture: “Pentagon officials expressed outrage when an independent audit revealed that defense contractor KBR Inc. had charged them up to five times more than market price for the service of torturing Iraqi citizens,” The Onion reports. “’At a time when our government is facing budget cuts across the board, it is reprehensible that someone would charge $150,000 to grab an innocent civilian off the street, fly him to a prison in an undisclosed location, and deprive him of sleep while forcing him to maintain an excruciatingly painful stress position for 40 hours,’ said Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, adding that the service should have cost ‘$40,000, tops.’ ‘Sure, they got this particular individual to talk, but is that any reason to tack on $250 dollars per nipple-clamp used to electrocute him?’ The Defense Department later confirmed it looked forward to continuing its work with KBR on projects throughout the region.