The Tragic Execution of Leonard Taylor: Missouri’s Risk of Executing the Innocent
On Tuesday (Feb. 7), the state of Missouri executed Leonard “Raheem” Taylor despite evidence of his innocence. Taylor had been convicted in 2008 of killing Angela Rowe, 28, and her children Alexus Conley, 10; AcQreya Conley, 6; and Tyrese Conley, 5, in 2004. Rowe and her children were found dead of gunshot wounds in their home in Jennings, a suburb of St. Louis.
Taylor had always maintained his innocence, arguing that police had fixated on him as a suspect and ignored his alibi, which was supported by witness statements. The state’s case rested on a dubious statement provided by Taylor’s brother, Perry, who recanted his statements long before Taylor’s 2008 trial. The state's argument was bolstered by the testimony of a medical examiner, who drastically altered his initial estimate of the time of death.
Taylor’s innocence claim was never fully investigated nor considered by any court, despite lingering questions over his guilt and his daughter, Deja, flying to St. Louis days before the execution to share crucial information supporting her father’s alibi.
Present St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced that he would not be filing a motion to vacate Taylor’s sentence, finding “the facts are not there to support a credible case of innocence.”
Taylor’s execution marks only the second time since 2015 that more than one person was executed in a calendar year in the state of Missouri.
The Death Penalty Information Center’s Innocence Database states that since 1973, there have been a total of 190 individuals in the United States who were incorrectly convicted and faced a death sentence, but were later exonerated. One person has been exonerated for every eight executions in our country. 94 people have been executed in Missouri, with four having been exonerated from death row.
The execution of Leonard Taylor is a tragic reminder of the risk of executing innocent people. His death marks only the second time since 2015 that more than one person was executed in a calendar year in the state of Missouri. Taylor’s innocence claim was never fully investigated nor considered by any court, despite lingering questions over his guilt and his daughter, Deja, flying to St. Louis days before the execution to share crucial information supporting her father’s alibi.
0. “In One Day, Missouri Plans to Execute Man With Innocence Claim” Innocence Project, 7 Feb. 2023, https://innocenceproject.org/petitions/missouri-plans-to-execute-raheem-taylor-with-innocence-claim
1. “Leonard Taylor to be executed Tuesday for 2004 murders” WDAF FOX4 Kansas City, 7 Feb. 2023, https://fox4kc.com/news/leonard-taylor-to-be-executed-tuesday-for-2004-murders
2. “Missouri Prepares to Execute Leonard “Raheem” Taylor” The Intercept, 5 Feb. 2023, https://theintercept.com/2023/02/05/missouri-leonard-raheem-taylor-execution/
3. “Justices decline to stop execution of Missouri man who said he was innocent” SCOTUSblog, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.scotusblog.com/2023/02/justices-decline-to-stop-execution-of-missouri-man-who-said-he-was-innocent/
4. ““An Irreversible Injustice”: Missouri Executes Leonard “Raheem” Taylor Despite Doubts Over His Guilt” The Intercept, 8 Feb. 2023, https://theintercept.com/2023/02/08/missouri-executes-leonard-raheem-taylor
5. “Missouri man executed for murdering his girlfriend and her three kids” New York Post , 8 Feb. 2023, https://nypost.com/2023/02/08/missouri-man-raheem-taylor-executed-for-murdering-girlfriend-three-kids/
6. “Missouri has a history of death penalty injustice. Stop Leonard Taylor’s execution | Opinion” Kansas City Star, 4 Feb. 2023, https://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readers-opinion/guest-commentary/article272090932.html
7. “Gov. Parson confirms Mo. will carry out death sentence of Leonard Taylor” KFVS, 7 Feb. 2023, https://www.kfvs12.com/2023/02/07/gov-parson-confirms-mo-will-carry-out-death-sentence-leonard-taylor/
8. “Missouri executes Jennings man convicted of killing woman and three children” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/missouri-executes-jennings-man-convicted-of-killing-woman-and-three-children/article_89b40ce7-9fe4-592a-8521-8e085206ce6e.html