Today we were protesting about a man in Missouri, USA called Reggie Clemons who was sentenced to death in 1991, personally I find this a strange concept; he's been on death row for longer than I've been alive which is surreal. The next few months could also determine whether or not he lives or dies, death is something that's been hanging over his head constantly for the past twenty years, a thought which is somewhat unnerving. Yet, whilst I am personally against the death penalty, this protest was about several key issues from when he was prosecuted.
The biggest issue was that there was never any confirmed physical evidence to connect him to the crime, which I think speaks for itself.
When Clemons arrived in court for the first time, witnesses confirm that his face was swollen. He claims that he 'confessed' to rape after being beaten up by police, his face was in such a bad way that the judge sent him to the emergency room. Surely police thuggery shouldn't be acceptable in modern America? Clemons claims he felt like he was going to be battered to death by them and it's widely accepted that when you're being beaten up, you'll say anything.
Clemons' legal representation was pretty abismal, to the point that his lawyer was later suspended from practicing, his co-counsel had a full time job in a different state at the time she was supposed to be represented Clemons. A lawyer hired by his mother before the trial later commented that their predecessors had not done the necessary preparation beforehand.When he was first arrested (despite it being on the charge of double murder) his mother was even dissuaded from seeking legal advice by the police leaving him vulnerable at the very start of his case.
The USA is infamous for the impact race has on the outcome of a court case, for example, although they only make up twelve percent of the general population, they make up forty two percent of those on death row. There have also been suggestions that black people were 'dis proportionally dismissed during jury selection', leading to a jury which was racially unrepresentative of the considerable black population in St Louis.
Finally, there have been allegations of a'stacked' jury. Amnesty International said: 'In 2002, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Clemons’ death sentence should not stand because six prospective jurors had been improperly excluded at jury selection.'
In all honesty? This isn't about ending the death penalty. Nor is it about Reggie Clemons being released, or even about whether or not he did it.it. The fact is that he has not had a fair trial, his human rights have been ignored and he's been treated by the justice system in a primitive manner that we all had America had grown out of. On that level, surely it's only right for him to have a retrial before he's punished. It seems ridiculous to me that someone could be executed on such tenuous grounds; if he's guilty of the heinous crime of rape and murder then let him have the appropriate punishment, but certainty is recquired before such a conclusion is reached and justice should be served all round.
for more information I found this fact sheet gave some pretty good background as well as this basic about page. YOU can get involved too by checking out the Amnesty International petition.