Death penalty on trial: should Reggie Clemons live or die?时间：2019-11-08 作者：辛埋 来源：兴发平台 浏览：55次 评论：55条
The trial of Reggie Clemons Articles and video Bios Timeline Julie Kerry Robin Kerry Thomas Cummins Daniel Winfrey Marlin Gray Reggie Clemons Antonio Richardson
At the time of her death Julie, 20, was studying English literature at the University of Missouri-St Louis. The second of four daughters, she lived with her mother Virginia in the Spanish Lake neighbourhood of St Louis, about two miles from the bridge. Julie was a volunteer for Amnesty International and Greenpeace, and her family and friends admired her for her strong sense of justice. She had a motto hanging on her bedroom wall: “Who says you can't change the world?” Her mother Ginna told police on the night of the incident: “Julie is a very friendly, trusting and idealistic girl”.
Julie's overwhelming enthusiasm was for writing poetry and songs. As her cousin, Jeanine Cummins, puts it in her book about the tragedy, A Rip in Heaven: “Julie was having a full-blown love affair with words. Her poetry was her passion; it helped her to interpret her life, to put things in perspective.” It was poetry that brought Julie and her sister to the bridge that night – they wanted to show their cousin, Thomas Cummins, a poem Julie had written and that they'd painted on the bridge.
Julie's body was found three weeks after she went missing, near Caruthersville, 297 miles downstream. She is buried in Calvary cemetery in St Louis.
A year younger than her sister Julie, Robin, 19 at the time of her death, was also studying at the University of Missouri-St Louis, in her case linguistics. She was active in the local community, helping six-year-olds with their homework after school at the local Salvation Army family haven. A strict vegetarian, her bedroom was festooned with sculptures she had made and sketches of dragons and fairies.
Her cousin Jeanine Cummins wrote that “Robin was bright and defiant. Julie was her mentor, her muse, but Robin was one hundred per cent her own person. She was the shier of the two sisters, but her quiet demeanor masked an ever active wellspring of activity in the mind. She was witty, sarcastic and passionate.” The sisters' mother, Ginna, told police on the night they went missing that .
Robin's body has never been found.
The son of a Catholic deacon from Gaithersburg, Maryland, Tom Cummins was training to become a fire fighter when the Chain of Rocks tragedy occurred. Aged 19, he had travelled with his family to St Louis for the spring break to spend time with his cousin Julie. On the night of the 4 April he drove with Julie and her sister Robin to the bridge to see a poem that Julie had written and painted on it. After the women fell to their deaths, Cummins became the star witness in the prosecution case against Reggie Clemons and his two other black co-defendants. He testified in three separate trials that they had raped his cousins and pushed them into the river, then forced him to jump after them by threatening to shoot him.
But police initially . Police records suggested that when they first encountered Cummins after he had sounded the alarm they were . Records also show that , at one point saying that Julie had stumbled into the river after he had unwittingly startled her by trying to hug her.
after they corroborated his statement that four other men had been on the bridge that night. Cummins later issued a lawsuit against the St Louis police alleging they had tried to frame him for the murders – - and he received a .
Today he lives back in the north-east of the US.
Aged 15, Winfrey was the youngest of the group of four men accused of murdering the Kerry sisters on 4 April, and the only white person among them. He had moved to the small town of Wentzville outside St Louis just three weeks before the incident, where he became friendly with Marlin Gray.
At just 5 ft 6 inches, he was described as an awkward teenager, though polite and respectful. He was arrested having been implicated by Thomas Cummins as one of the four perpetrators. After interrogation, he agreed to turn prosecution witness, confessing that he had been involved in robbing Cummins and the sisters and had held down the women but had not raped them. He gave evidence in court in the three separate trials of his co-defendants in exchange for a lesser charge of second-degree murder for which he pleaded guilty and received a 30-year sentence.
Winfrey was a key witness for the prosecution whose testimony was crucial to the conviction of Reggie Clemons, testifying he had seen Clemons rape the sisters. By his own account, though, he was not on the bridge at the . He didn't .
Winfrey was released on parole in 2007. He now lives outside St Louis with his mother. When the Guardian visited him, he said: “I have nothing to say. Talk to my lawyer.”
Marlin Gray, 23 at the time, was the oldest of the four men accused of murdering the Kerry sisters. On the evening of 4 April he was driving around Wentzville when he spotted Daniel Winfrey who he had got to know shortly before, and the two of them went off to visit Gray's friend Reggie Clemons in St Louis.
After the four were arrested, Winfrey told police that Gray had had the initial idea to go back on the bridge and accost the Kerry sisters and their cousin, alleging that Gray had said he . Gray also made a confession to police, but shortly afterwards retracted it, saying . Winfrey and Thomas Cummins testified at Gray's trial that he had raped the women. Cummins said that Gray had threatened to “pop him”. But by their account, Gray had left the bridge by the time the women were allegedly forced into the river and he was found guilty of murder as an accomplice. Gray continued to insist he was innocent until 26 October 2005 when he was executed by lethal injection. Before he died, he made a final statement. He said:
Born on 30 August 1971, Clemons was the youngest of six children of Roosevelt and Vera Robinson (now Thomas). Clemons had a difficult childhood, suffering from abuse on the part of his father. Vera eventually divorced Roosevelt, and remarried a church pastor, Reynolds Thomas, when Clemons was six years old. Clemons's home background stabilised, and by the time of the Chain of Rocks incident, aged 19, he was described as a compassionate and caring teenager who .
Clemons was put on trial for the murder of the Kerry sisters on the basis of his own . .
Cummins told the jury at the trial that he heard Clemons and Winfrey discussing whether he should be allowed to live or die. But neither Cummins nor Winfrey testified that they had seen Clemons push the women into the river, and the prosecution did not allege that he had done so, arguing he was an accomplice to murder.
Clemons, who has consistently proclaimed his innocence, is being held at the Potosi Correctional Center in . He was sentenced to death on 18 February 1993 and has been on death row ever since.
Richardson lived around the corner from his cousin, Reggie Clemons, in a suburb of St Louis. Aged 16 at the time of his arrest, he was brought up by a succession of relatives and suffered periods of abandonment. By 15 he had a drug and alcohol problem, and dropped out of school.
At trial, his lawyer presented the jury with evidence of Richardson's impaired mental capacity and brain damage. Richardson was the first of the four co-defendants to be arrested after police found a flashlight on the bridge that he had stolen and lost on the night of the murders. Under questioning, Richardson turned on Marlin Gray and Clemons, saying that they had killed the Kerry sisters. But at his trial Thomas Cummins, the sisters' cousin, said it was .
In July 1993 Richardson was found guilty of murder, but the jury was unable to decide whether or not he should be given the death penalty. In their place, the trial judge put him on death row. He came within an hour of execution in March 2001, and two years later had his . He is being held at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, Missouri.19914 April
11pm: Reggie Clemons, 19, along with Marlin Gray, 23, Antonio Richardson, 16, and Daniel Winfrey, 15, drive to the disused Chain of Rocks bridge across the Mississippi river. They drop a flashlight on the bridge.
11.25pm: Two sisters, Julie and Robin Kerry, go onto the bridge with their cousin Thomas Cummins. They see the four on the bridge and chat briefly. The two groups then part.
According to Clemons, he and his three companions then left the bridge.
Thomas Cummins gave a different account: the four men returned and raped his cousins. Then one of them pushed the women into the river, and forced him to jump in after them. Cummins survived, the two women did not.19915 April
Early hours: Thomas Cummins stops a passing truck and asks driver to call police. He is taken to a police station in St Louis where he faces questioning.
During day: . According to a police report, . Cummins later says that the police report was fabricated.19917 April
Police find the flashlight dropped by the group of four on the bridge and trace it back to Richardson, whom they arrest. Then they pick up Clemons, Gray and Winfrey. Clemons confesses to rape, though not to murder.
Thomas Cummins is released from police custody.9 April
Reggie Clemons makes that his confession was beaten out of him. . Both Clemons' and Gray's complaints are dismissed, and their respective confessions are allowed to be presented to the juries at their separate trials.199221 October
Trial opens of Marlin Gray3 December
Gray sentenced to death.199325 January
Trial opens of Reggie Clemons13 February
Clemons found guilty of two counts of first degree murder18 February
Jury imposes death sentence for both counts and Clemons is put on death row19932 April
Cummins files a lawsuit against the St Louis police force claiming he was brutally treated by detectives. Lawsuit ends in a settlement in which Cummins is paid $150,0004 April
Judge at Clemons's trial fines prosecutor Nels Moss $500 for criminal contempt for2 July
Antonio Richardson sentenced to death by a judge after the jury fails to reach a verdict.20017 March
Antonio Richardson comes within an hour of execution. The US supreme court stays the execution200328 October
Antonio Richardson's death sentence reduced to life imprisonment after courts rule the death penalty should not be handed down by a judge alone200526 October
Marlin Gray executed by lethal injection2007June
Daniel Winfrey, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in jail, is paroled after 16 years20095 June
US court of appeals stays the execution of Reggie Clemons, 12 days before he was scheduled to die.1 July
The Missouri supreme court appoints a “special master” to the Reggie Clemons case to review the entire case and recommend what should happen next.201217 September
Hearing of the “Special master” scheduled to begin. After hearing, Judge Michael Manners will recommend to Missouri supreme court whether Clemons should live or die.
Reggie Clemons has one last chance to save his life. After 19 years on death row in Missouri for the murder of two young women, he has been granted a final opportunity to persuade a judge that he should be spared execution by lethal injection.
Next month, Clemons will be brought before a court presided over by a "special master", who will review the case one last time. The hearing will be unprecedented in its remit, but at its core will be a simple issue:
That question is as deadly serious as it sounds. One of Clemons's three co-defendants has already been executed, and Clemons himself came within 12 days of being put to death in 2009.
The Reggie Clemons case has been a cause of legal dispute for the past two decades. Prosecutors alleged that he and his co-defendants brutally cut short the lives of Julie and Robin Kerry, sisters who had just started college and had their whole adult lives ahead of them.
, based partly on incriminating testimony given by his co-defendants, was that Clemons was part of a group of four youths who accosted the sisters on the Chain of Rocks Bridge one dark night in April 1991. The bridge, that connects Missouri and Illinois over the Mississippi river, had fallen into disuse, and teenagers used to gather up there to meet, smoke dope or do graffiti. The sisters, and their cousin Thomas Cummins, had gone onto the bridge that night to see a poem Julie Kerry had painted on it, and as they did so they bumped into Clemons and three other young men who were hanging out there.
The prosecution case was that the men forced the sisters to strip, threw their clothes over the bridge, then raped them and participated in forcing them to jump into the river to their deaths. As he walked off the bridge, Clemons was alleged to have said: "We threw them off. Let's go."
Clemons's supporters have over the years given a different rendition of events. In the racially heated atmosphere of St Louis in the early 1990s, they say, Clemons was made the fall guy. Of the four men who were charged with the murders, the three black men were all put on death row while the one white man is now free on parole.
In this account of events, the cards were stacked against Clemons from the beginning. His appeal lawyers have , the jury was wrongfully selected and misdirected, and his conviction largely achieved on individual testimony with no supporting forensic evidence presented.
Next month's proceedings will bring these two versions of events head
to head. The hearing will be unique in US legal history in terms of
the open-ended brief that has been assigned to the special master,
appointed by the Missouri supreme court after a federal judge granted
Clemons a stay of execution three years ago. The position was given
the title of special master to denote the unusual legal challenge it
involved. The judge would given full powers to call witnesses, look
through the evidence and eventually recommend to the supreme court
what should happen to Clemons.
The hearings will also be significant in a wider sense: in effect, the
death penalty in America will itself be put on trial when the hearing
opens on 17 September.
Judge Michael Manners will be confronted by a question that goes to the heart of the debate on capital punishment in America today. Is the legal system so foolproof, so devoid of flaws and inconsistencies, that it can – beyond the shadow of even the slightest doubt – impose the ultimate, irreversible punishment: the taking of a man's life?
At the end of what is expected to be a week-long hearing, Manners will draw up his recommendation to the Missouri supreme court that will seal Clemons's fate. The judge will have the full range of options open to him. He could recommend that Clemons be freed on time served; order a new trial; call for his death sentence to be commuted to life without parole; or suggest that a date be set for Clemons to be executed – this time with no chance of reprieve.
Clemons is not allowing his hopes to rise ahead of the hearing. He has been through many twists and turns in his legal fortunes already. At one point an appeal court overturned his death sentence, only for it to be reimposed by another judicial panel. After so many years, he has acquired a degree of emotional detachment.
"When dealing with the courts, you learn not to have expectations," he said in a Guardian interview from death row at Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri. "After 20 years of contemplating my execution, and contemplating my death, I have accepted it."
The burden of proof at the special hearing will fall on the defence. In other words, it will be for Clemons and his lawyers to convince the judge that his death sentence for double murder is unsound.
To do that, the defence is expected to concentrate on Clemons's confession to police detectives after he was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the murder of the Kerry sisters, who drowned in the Mississippi river on the night of 4-5 April 1991. Clemons confessed to raping Robin Kerry, but immediately retracted the statement, insisting it had been beaten out of him during a violent police interrogation.
Lawyers on both sides of the legal argument are declining to speak before the hearing. But it is understood that new evidence will be presented to the hearing that supports Clemons's case that his confession was coerced and should not have been allowed to be put before the jury at trial. The Missouri prosecutors are expected in reply to argue that a coerced confession is not proof of Clemons's innocence.
The state's star witness at the trial of Reggie Clemons was Thomas Cummins, the cousin of the Kerry sisters. Cummins told the jury that on the night his cousins were murdered, Cummins and the two sisters had been accosted on the deserted Chain of Rocks bridge by four men they encountered there. The sisters were raped and pushed into the river, Cummins said, then he was forced to jump in after them.
Cummins's account was initially doubted by police, and they suspected him of causing his cousins' death. At Clemons's ensuing trial, that anyone could survive a 70ft drop from the bridge into the perilously fast-moving waters of the Mississippi without at least suffering some visible injuries.
Cummins told police several different accounts of what happened that night, according to police records. One of the accounts was that Julie Kerry had after he tried to hug her. But Cummins retracted his statement, saying he had been roughly treated during many hours of interrogation, and later was granted $150,000 by St Louis police .
A couple of days after the sisters' deaths, police dropped Cummins as a suspect and turned their attentions instead to the other four men who had been on the bridge that night. They were: Clemons; Marlin Gray (executed in 2005); Antonio Richardson (currently serving life imprisonment after his death sentence was commuted); and Daniel Winfrey (the only white man among the four, who turned witness for the prosecution and was given a deal under which he received a lesser sentence; he was released in 2007 on parole).
After several hours of questioning by St Louis police, Clemons confessed to rape but not to murder. But the next day he, too, retracted the confession, saying it had been beaten out of him.
"I remember police mainly beating me in the chest, and that was something that scared me a whole lot. While they were beating me, they were telling me what they wanted me to admit to," Clemons told the Guardian.
As Clemons's lawyers have argued, his description of the violent interrogation he was put through is almost identical to that alleged by Thomas Cummins. It took place, , at the hands of the same detectives, in the same investigation and within 48 hours of each other .
Cummins was given a $150,000 settlement, and was made the star witness at Reggie Clemons's trial. Clemons, by contrast, had his allegedly coerced confession presented to the jury and used as key evidence to put him on death row.
The other area of legal argument that is likely to be central at next month's hearing will focus on a rape kit that was collected after Julie Kerry's body was found 297 miles downstream from the bridge. The rape kit, which is in cold storage with the St Louis police department, appears not to have been disclosed to Clemons's lawyers before his trial.
Jeanene Moenckmeier, one of Clemons's two original trial lawyers, told the Guardian that "we should have seen it as part of the evidence we could have considered at the trial."
DNA tests have recently been carried out on the rape kit, and on a condom found on the bridge that night, to see whether they can illuminate what happened 19 years ago. The results of those tests are being studied by the Missouri attorney general's office and Clemons's current defence lawyers, and are likely to be the subject of testimony in front of the special master.
What, if anything, the tests show, and whether they can cast any light on what happened on the bridge 19 years ago – and indeed Clemons's role in events – will only become clear at next month's proceedings.
There are several other aspects of the case that could hold the special master's attention. The prosecution of Reggie Clemons was so riddled by inconsistencies and irregularities that some observers of the case argue he should never have been put on death row in the first place.
"There are so many contradictions, so many things that don't add up," said Chris King, editorial director of the St Louis American, that has covered the case in depth over several years. "In capital cases the highest standards of jurisprudence should be observed – because the state is taking a life – but that didn't happen in this case."
The selection of the trial jury was conducted by the prosecution in a way . Questions were also raised about the way the prosecution had been conducted. At the time of the Chain of Rocks bridge, Clemons was 19, had just finished high school and was planning to go to college to study engineering. Yet despite the fact that Clemons had no criminal record, the chief prosecutor Nels Moss went in front of the jury and . Moss had been instructed by the trial judge not to refer to Manson - he had played the same trick in the earlier trial of Marlin Gray - and for blatantly disregarding the order was later fined $500 for criminal contempt of court.
Two sets of people will be touched particularly intimately by the outcome of the hearing. The first is Clemons's family, particularly his mother Vera Thomas, who has visited him on death row every week almost without fail for the past 19 years.
"Every time I visit him I am more aware of the fact that they are trying to kill him. It's like we're living on borrowed time, as far as the system is concerned," she said.
The second set of people is the family of Julie and Robin Kerry. They prefer not to speak in public about what happened to their loved ones, and declined to participate with the Guardian.
The closest indication of the family's thinking is given in a powerful book written by the Kerry sisters' cousin, Jeanine Cummins, Thomas Cummins' sister. In A Rip In Heaven she writes movingly about the emotional rollercoaster that her family has been on over many years.
She says she has no compassion for Reggie Clemons or his co-defendants. "I don't care what happens to them. Julie and Robin aren't coming back."
Jeanine Cummins has strong words, too, about the death penalty. She writes that Julie and Robin were both adamantly opposed to the death sentence on humanitarian grounds. Cummins herself gives a different reason for wanting the death penalty to be abolished – because it further alienates and tortures families such as hers who have already suffered so much.
"Maybe the death penalty is wrong … because it rubs salt in the wounds of grief," she writes. "Because it trivialises the people who should matter most. Because it allows the murderers the opportunity to wear a badge they don't deserve – the badge of the victim."