Today, the state of Missouri executed Leonard “Raheem” Taylor even though a full investigation of his innocence claim was never conducted. Mr. Taylor was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend and her three children in 2004, despite evidence and witnesses putting him nearly 2,000 miles away in California at the time of their deaths.
Gov. Mike Parson refused a Feb. 2 request, which the Innocence Project and the Midwest Innocence Project joined, to convene a board of inquiry to fully review both the new and old evidence in Mr. Taylor’s case and the courts refused to stay the execution to allow review of his innocence claim. In doing so, Missouri exalted the finality of an execution over the truth of Mr. Taylor’s innocence.
There is a profound misconception in this country that any time a criminal conviction has gone through the appellate process, all credible evidence of innocence has been fully investigated and rejected by the courts.
But, for many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.
We know from our work that the system gets it wrong at alarming rates.
Since 1973, more than 190 people have been exonerated from death row, including four people in Missouri. And a recent National Academy of Science study estimated that over 4% of incarcerated people on death row are innocent. That means that over 100 innocent people on death row currently are facing execution for crimes they did not commit.
The just, fair, and equitable administration of justice requires meaningful investigation and review of credible claims of innocence — particularly in death penalty cases where the risk of making a fatal and irreversible mistake should be intolerable.
This case was unbelievable. I wrote to Gov Parson saying that it was an embarrassment to himself and his staff that he would deny justice to Raheem Taylor. I really cannot believe that to this day we are denying justice to people probably primarily due to their race. May Raheem’s soul rest in peace.
I was sick to my stomach the day that the state of Missouri executed Mr. Taylor without regarding the pleas of the Innocence Project on his behalf. What is gained from the state performing such an act? I do hope that IP can continue the work on his case and expose the state for its barbarity and inhumanity in regard to executing this man who was likely innocent.