URGENT: Missouri Plans to Execute Man With Innocence Claim Today
Urge Gov. Parson to stop this irreversible injustice
Missouri plans to execute Leonard “Raheem” Taylor on Tuesday, Feb. 7, despite evidence of his innocence. Mr. Taylor was convicted for the 2004 murder of his girlfriend, Angela Rowe, and her three children in St. Louis, and has maintained his innocence for nearly 20 years.
This irreversible injustice is just days away from being carried out, and Gov. Mike Parson has the power to stop it. Call 573-400-0357 to urge the governor to grant Mr. Taylor a reprieve and appoint an independent board of inquiry to fully investigate Mr. Taylor’s claim of innocence now and ask Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell to file a motion to overturn the conviction on the basis of innocence or constitutional error at trial.
Mr. Taylor’s attorneys have also filed a request to review his case — including both new and old evidence — to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office. In Missouri, a prosecutor has the power to file a motion to overturn a conviction on the basis of innocence or constitutional error at trial.
Mr. Taylor had an alibi that should have proven his innocence immediately — he was out of the state at the time of the murders. Based on the state medical examiner’s initial time of death estimation, Mr. Taylor was nearly 2,000 miles away, in California, meeting his 13-year-old daughter for the first time. His daughter, now an adult, said in a sworn statement that she remembers Mr. Taylor calling Ms. Rowe during their visit and that she even spoke to Ms. Rowe and one of her daughters over the phone.
But at trial, the medical examiner drastically changed the time of death estimation — widening the potential range of dates during which Ms. Rowe and her children might have been killed — with no sound explanation. Yet none of Mr. Taylor’s previous attorneys retained a forensic pathologist to review the medical examiner’s changing estimation until now. Had they done so, they likely would have found evidence supporting Mr. Taylor’s innocence.
The prosecutor’s case relied on a statement given by Mr. Taylor’s brother to the police, in which his brother said Mr. Taylor had told him about the murders before leaving for California. However, his brother, who died in 2015, immediately recanted this statement and also recanted at trial, saying that he made the statement after police beat him, coerced him, and threatened him and his mother. The evidence shows that the officers who interrogated Mr. Taylor’s brother used psychologically coercive tactics known to produce false confessions.
St. Louis County ranks sixth among the counties who have executed the most people since 1990, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Currently, 18 people are on death row in Missouri — a third of them were sentenced to death in St. Louis County under Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, who also prosecuted Mr. Taylor. Mr. McCulloch, who secured death sentences against 23 people in his 28 years as a prosecutor, has been called “one of the most active users of the death penalty.”
To date, nearly 200 people have been exonerated from death row — including four people in Missouri. They are proof that the death penalty poses a fatal risk to innocent people. Mr. Taylor deserves to have the evidence and his claims of innocence reviewed, before Missouri carries out an irreversible injustice.