ST. LOUIS • Advocacy groups that rallied around Reginald Clemons at the special hearing of his death sentence this week are calling for broader reforms of the criminal justice system.
Representatives from Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the ACLU, the NAACP and the Justice for Reggie Campaign gathered on the Carnahan courthouse steps Friday with Clemons' parents, saying his trial should serve as a case study for what's wrong with the system and why it needs to be fixed.
They pointed in particular to allegations that Clemons' confession was beaten out of him by St. Louis police, and that a police report was altered to strengthen the prosecutor's case.
Clemons, 41, was one of four men convicted of the gang rape and double murder of sisters Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19, on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge in 1991.
This week, a "special master" appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court reviewed his case to help decide whether the conviction should be abandoned. The hearing concluded on Thursday, but Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Manners is still collecting evidence to turn over to the high court with a recommendation.
Attorneys for the state attorney general's office brought forward witness after witness to dispute the claims of a coerced confession. And Nels Moss, the former prosecutor, said he only requested changes to the police report to correct inaccuracies that became apparent once new evidence was learned.
Clemons' supporters don't buy it.
"We are dealing with a system that's terribly flawed and broken," said Jamala Rogers, coordinator for the Justice for Reggie Campaign. "We have to make it humane and just for whoever is coming next."
The groups did not offer specific solutions. But they said their goal going forward is to highlight other cases like Clemons', to keep pressure on for reform.
John Chasnoff, program director for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, pointed out the recent rapping St. Louis police took from a federal judge here, who accused the department of having been "deliberately indifferent" to "a widespread persistent pattern of unconstitutional conduct" or having "tacitly approved" it.
The case in question, reported by the Post-Dispatch this week, involves Former Lt. Henrietta Arnold, who is accused of having her son's girlfriend arrested outside the city limits on a false charge, with a falsified police report.
The girlfriend's lawyers allege 23 occasions in the five-year period before the teen's arrest in which officers were accused of submitting false reports to conceal unlawful conduct — including planting evidence, committing perjury, drug dealing, accepting bribes and falsifying information in search warrants. The department has declined to comment on the claims.
"We have to step back from Reggie's trial . . . and see what it tells us about the justice system as a whole," Chasnoff said.