The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is providing extensive coverage of Reggie Clemons' hearing in Missouri. Today's updating coverage is, "Clemons testifies police beat him to get murder confession in Chain of Rocks case." It's by Jennifer Mann.
Reginald Clemons, under a death sentence for a double murder in 1991, testified in court here this morning that police beat a confession out of him after telling him they "have ways of making people talk."
He denied on the witness stand that he had participated in the rape and murders of sisters Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19, at the old Chain of Rocks Bridge. But he declined to elaborate.
While Clemons lawyers focused solely on how the confession was conducted, attorneys for the state Attorney General's Office went straight to what it contained: a detailed accounting of the rapes and murders of the young women that night.
Clemons asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination more than 30 times, to every single question about those events.
While allowed in criminal trials, there are repercussions to doing so in a civil proceeding, like this one.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners, who was appointed "special master" to hear the case and make a recommendation to the Missouri Supreme Court, reminded Clemons of that risk after the questioning ended.
"You understand that the inferences I will draw from your testimony will be unfavorable to you," he warned Clemons. Clemons acknowledged he understood.
Manners' recommendation could range from upholding the death sentence, to ordering a new trial or reversing the conviction.
"Hearing for Reginald Clemons in 1991 Chain of Rocks murder case is delayed," also by Mann, was posted Tuesday.
A special review of Reginald Clemons' 1993 death row case has been delayed a day because of unspecified legal issues.
The "special master" hearing ordered by the Missouri Supreme Court began Monday and had been scheduled to resume Tuesday, but after about two hours in which attorneys met behind closed doors in the judge's chambers, a bailiff announced it would resume Wednesday morning. At that point, Clemons is expected to take the stand.
Clemons is one of four men convicted in the 1991 murders of Julie and Robin Kerry on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge.
On Monday the prosecutor who won convictions against the four had to fend off claims that he bolstered his case by having a police report altered and ignoring signs of police brutality.
Late Monday, a judge appointed to make a recommendation on the case to the Missouri Supreme Court was presented a video-taped deposition of Robert Baumann, who was captain of the St. Louis Police unit that investigated the double murder of Julie and Robin Kerry. Baumann, in response to Clemons' attorneys' questions, said he would consider it inappropriate to make changes to a police report.
Lawyers for Clemons on Monday also highlighted crime lab results — which they argue would have raised doubt of his culpability — that never made it into the 1993 trial in which their client was sentenced to death.
A stay of execution, 12 days before Clemons was to die in June 2009, paved the path for the information to be discovered, his attorneys said. Now they are hoping to convince the special master, Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners, that it's enough to reverse Clemons' conviction, or at least to spare him from execution.
One of the others convicted has been executed, another is serving a life term and a third received early parole in exchange for testimony against the others.
"Clemons' lawyers claim he was coerced into confessing 1991 bridge murders," was posted Monday afternoon.
Attorneys for Reginald Clemons argued this morning that an altered police report, a coerced confession and withheld lab evidence cast doubt on the 1993 conviction that sent him to death row.
Lawyers from the Missouri attorney general's office disputed those characterizations and said many of the debated points have already been litigated.
Clemons, now 41, was one of four men convicted in the murders of Julie and Robin Kerry, sisters who were raped and forced to leap into the Mississippi River from the old Chain of Rocks Bridge on April 5, 1991. The women's cousin, Thomas Cummins, said that he was made to watch and then forced off the bridge himself. He alone managed to swim to shore.
Under interrogation in 1991, Cummins confessed the crime before recanting. His statements took center stage today, at the start of an evidentiary hearing to help determine whether Clemons' death sentence or even conviction might be overturned.
Clemons' lawyers produced a draft police report of Cummins' statements to detectives, which differed from a final report that was entered into the record at Clemons' trial.
Earlier coverage of Reggie Clemons' case begins with a preview of this week's hearing.