Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Judge: Old Chain of Rocks Bridge Killer Failed to Establish Innocence

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Judge: Old Chain of Rocks Bridge Killer Failed to Establish Innocence

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * A man fighting his conviction and death sentence in a 1991 double-murder on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge failed to establish his innocence in the case, according to a special review by a judge.

The judge noted, however, that prosecutors improperly suppressed evidence that suggested detectives beat Reginald Clemons into confessing to the crimes.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners, who retired from the bench last month, was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court as "special master" to review the case of Clemons, 41, who sits on death row.

"I do not believe Clemons has established a gateway claim of actual innocence," Manners wrote.

His report now goes to the state's high court, which will begin the process of reviewing Clemons' appeal. The court can decide anything from leaving Clemons on death row to throwing out his conviction.

Clemons was among four men convicted of raping and murdering sisters Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19, on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge in April 1991. A jury convicted Clemons without physical evidence of rape. He was sentenced to death in 1993.

Manners argued in his report that the jury in Clemons' case would never have heard his taped confession if the state had not suppressed a probation officer's testimony. The officer said he saw injuries to Clemons' face after a police interrogation.

Manners wrote that although he doesn't believe the evidence would have changed the verdict, he rejected the state's claim that keeping it out of the trial was a "harmless error."

Manners wrote that he listened to Clemons' taped confession, in which Clemons is "sobbing uncontrollably" upon seeing pictures of the Kerry sisters. Manners said he believes police coerced Clemons into a confession that he later recanted. Clemons "sounded authentic," Manners wrote, "maybe because of his fear of what was going to happen to him, or maybe for some other reason. Maybe."

Manners held hearings on the case in September in a rare, special review. Clemons has acknowledged being on the bridge the night of the killings but claims police beat a confession out of him and that he was railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor. …

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