A Father Speaks Out: Don't Let My Son Die

September 11, 2012

reggie clemons family Reynolds Thomas Vera Thomas
Rev. Reynolds Thomas and Vera Thomas have been fighting to keep their son Reggie Clemons from being executed in Missouri despite a strong case for innocence and gross prosecutorial misconduct.

By Rev. Reynolds Thomas

Next week is very important — you see, it will help determine whether my son will live or die. My son’s name is Reginald Clemons, but we call him Reggie. He has been on Missouri’s death row for about 20 years now. On Monday the 17th, his case will be reviewed by a judge for what could be the last time.

Chances like this don’t happen often and we are grateful for this special opportunity. Before we reach that step, I want you to understand a few things about the case, my son and just how fatal the flaws of the death penalty system can be.

Then I hope you’ll send a letter of support to Reggie — for strength, for compassion, for justice. I’ll give it to him personally before the hearing.

The state of Missouri has accused my son of killing two young women — pushing them into the Mississippi River in April 1991. The pain the family of these two girls has suffered after such a staggering loss is unfathomable. But from the beginning, the case against Reggie has been riddled with grave and glaring problems:

How can my son be about to lose his life when there is so much so clearly wrong with this case?
First, my sons’ face was so swollen after his interrogation by St. Louis police that the judge arraigning him sent him to the emergency room.

Second, not one, not two, but four federal judges have agreed that the prosecutor’s conduct when cross-examining Reggie was “abusive and boorish”. This prosecutor compared my son, who at 19 years old never even had a criminal record, to two convicted serial killers.

Third, I wish race weren’t a factor, but it is a fact that the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim. My son is a black man. The two young women who were killed were white. Add that to the disproportionate dismissal of blacks during jury selection and you get a perfect storm of racial discrimination.

Fourth, and most troubling of all — the state’s only two eye-witnesses included a man who, at one point, confessed to police that he murdered the girls and another who took a plea in exchange for a lighter sentence!

How can my son be about to lose his life when there is so much so clearly wrong with this case?

Reggie Clemons, St Louis, Missouri
Reggie Clemons

The support we’ve received over the years from Amnesty International and its members has been such an inspiration. It’s kept us strong, even when fighting a system that has, at times, made us feel weak.

That’s why I’ve invited Amnesty representatives to join me at Monday’s special hearing in Missouri. We want to pack as much positive energy as we can into that courtroom! They’ll bring your messages to me and I will deliver them directly to Reggie. I know it will mean a lot to him.

My son has come within 12 days of execution by lethal injection before. No person should have to endure the cruelty of a looming death sentence.

I’m praying that Monday’s hearing will be our chance to lay all the evidence, facts and flaws out on the table once and for all. I’m praying that your messages of support give him the strength he needs to keep fighting. And most of all, I’m praying that justice is coming for my son, Reggie.

Rev. Reynolds Thomas is the stepfather of Reggie Clemons