Leonard "Raheem" Taylor was convicted for the 2004 murders of Angela Rowe and her three children in Jennings, Missouri. Throughout the trial and appeals, he has maintained his innocence. Court documents show that the murders occurred after Leonard left Angela's home, where he last saw her and her children alive, and headed to the airport to visit his daughter in California.
Then there is the false statement made by his brother, who says police coerced him, threatened him and his mother, beat him and told him to tell them Leonard had confessed to the crime - a statement that he recanted immediately and repeatedly since then.
All of the new and old evidence clearly shows that Leonard was not in Missouri at the time, and yet he has been on death row since 2008. Leonard's story has all the red flags of wrongful convictions and sadly, his story is not unique.
Joe Amrine has been living in Kansas City since he was exonerated from Missouri's death row almost 20 years ago. He was sentenced to death in 1986 for the murder of a fellow prisoner, Gary Barber, and spent 17 years on Missouri's death row.
Like Leonard, Joe maintained his innocence, and investigators could never provide any physical evidence linking him to the crime.
Given the recent exonerations of Kevin Strickland and the hearing in St. Louis County for Lamar Johnson, it is well known that the Missouri attorney general's office defends every conviction, regardless of merit. Perhaps the most egregious example was in Joe's case in 2001, when a Missouri Supreme Court justice asked the prosecutor: "Are you suggesting … even if we find that Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?" The prosecutor responded, "That is correct, your honor."
The court ordered his release in April 2003, citing the alarming fact that there was no credible evidence to uphold the conviction.
On Tuesday, Missouri is set to execute Leonard despite serious questions about the integrity of his conviction. The similarities between their cases are routine in wrongful convictions and include false statements, misleading forensic evidence and prosecutorial misconduct.
Perjury or false accusation is present in more than 75% of wrongful death sentences. A key piece of evidence against Leonard was that coerced, recanted confession from his brother, Perry Taylor. A new review of the documentation by an interrogations expert concludes that Perry's interrogation was "overly coercive and utilized tactics no longer approved in the U.S. because they lead to false statements."
False or misleading forensic evidence is present in more than 30% of wrongful death sentences. A recent review by an independent pathologist concluded that there is a need for a more thorough review of the autopsy report, photographs and other documents, which would discredit the medical examiner's testimony at trial and support Leonard's innocence.
Since 1973, at least 190 people who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in the U.S. have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center's Innocence Database. For every eight people executed in our country, one person has been exonerated. Missouri has executed 94 people, and four have been exonerated from death row.
Time and again, state courts have proven they cannot be trusted to protect the innocent or afford people their rights when accused. If innocent people can make it onto death row, what would prevent an innocent person from being executed? Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty joins in the call with the Innocence Project, the Midwest Innocence Project and the nonprofit law practice Phillips Black asking Gov. Mike Parson to issue a board of inquiry to review all of the new and old evidence in Leonard Taylor's case. Joe Amrine is living proof that our court system does make mistakes - and when death is on the table, those mistakes cannot be unmade.
Elyse Max is the co-director of Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty, a statewide, nonpartisan organization working to abolish the death penalty and educate Missourians on the costs and consequences of the death penalty. She lives in Kansas City.