by Sophie Trist
In what is becoming an increasingly disturbing pattern, Missouri is set to execute a man with a credible innocence claim on February 7, 2023. In the past six weeks, Missouri has committed state-sanctioned homicide against two people; Leonard “Raheem” Taylor is set to be the next to die by lethal injection in the state.
Mr. Taylor was convicted of the 2004 murders of his girlfriend Angela Rowe and her three children: Alexis Connely, Acqrea Connely, and Tyrese Connely. The case was plagued with problems from the start: the prosecutors ignored Mr. Taylor’s “air-tight alibi” which showed he was on the other side of the country at the proposed time of the murders; they coerced his brother into testifying against him, and his brother later recanted his statement at trial; and they withheld evidence from his defense lawyers. Mr. Taylor’s attorneys have found new witnesses to support his story. Mr. Taylor told the Kansas City Star that the state wanted a conviction more than the truth and that he “was unreasonably targeted, falsely accused, wrongfully indicted, unjustly convicted, and cruelly sentenced to die.”
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 185 people on death row have been exonerated — approximately one out of every ten prisoners sentenced to death. All too often, prosecutors and courts sweep credible innocence claims under the rug to keep the violence of state-sanctioned homicide rolling. But in Mr. Taylor’s case, we still have time to act before another life is devoured by our broken death penalty system.
A 2021 law allows Missouri prosecutors to vacate convictions if they have substantial evidence to prove they are wrongful or erroneous. Mr. Taylor’s attorneys have filed a petition with the St. Louis County prosecutor, who is considering investigating his case further.
There are several direct action steps you can take to help save Mr. Taylor’s life. Death Penalty Action and Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty have created an online petition, already signed by thousands of people across the country. MADP has also created a #JusticeForRaheem toolkit with graphics and info supporters can post on social media.
As followers of a consistent life ethic, we must follow our words up with actions. It may seem like petitions and hashtags don’t do much in the face of a system that often crushes innocent lives with no regard for truth or justice, but every action helps. Every little thing we do asserts that we won’t stand silent while the state murders people like Leonard Raheem Taylor for crimes they didn’t commit. Please join me in urging the St. Louis County prosecutor and Missouri governor Mike Parsons to do the only right and moral thing by staying Mr. Taylor’s execution and reviewing the new evidence of his innocence.
Cover photo by Nick Wagner for the Kansas City Star.