This booking photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Leonard Taylor. Attorneys for Taylor, a Missouri man scheduled to be executed in February 2023, are seeking a new hearing, citing sworn statements they call “clear and convincing evidence” that he did not kill his girlfriend and her three children. (Missouri Department of Corrections via AP, File)
A Missouri man convicted of killing his live-in girlfriend and her three young children nearly two decades ago is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday — but his attorney has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to try to stop it.
Attorney Kent Gipson is asking the court to grant a stay of execution and appoint a special master to review Raheem Taylor’s case, arguing that his client is innocent and that executing him would be a “constitutionally intolerable event.” A similar request to the Missouri Supreme Court was turned aside late Monday and prosecutors have said Taylor’s claim of innocence is “nonsense.”
Fifty-eight-year-old Taylor is scheduled to die Tuesday evening at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri.
At issue is the timing of the killings. Taylor has long maintained that he was in California when Angela Rowe, her 10-year-old daughter Alexus Conley, 6-year-old daughter AcQreya Conley, and 5-year-old son Tyrese Conley were killed in 2004.
A medical examiner initially said the family was likely killed shortly before the bodies were found. At trial, the medical examiner had a different take, saying the family was probably slain much earlier, when Taylor was still in Missouri.
The Midwest Innocence Project, the national NAACP and several Missouri civil rights and religious groups also called for a stay of execution.
Last month, Taylor’s attorneys petitioned St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell to ask a judge for a new hearing on the innocence claim, as allowed by a relatively new Missouri law. Bell declined, finding no “credible case of innocence.” On Monday, he reiterated his belief that the jury “got the verdict right.”
Republican Gov. Mike Parson denied a clemency request on Monday, dismissing Taylor’s “self-serving claim of innocence.”
Taylor and Rowe lived with the children at a home in the St. Louis suburb of Jennings. Taylor boarded a flight to California on Nov. 26, 2004.
On Dec. 3, 2004, police were sent to the home in Jennings after worried relatives said they hadn’t heard from Rowe. Officers found the bodies of Rowe and her children. All four had been shot.
At Taylor’s trial, Medical Examiner Phillip Burch said the killings could have happened two or three weeks before the discovery of the bodies, long before Taylor’s trip to California.
But Gipson said that several people, including relatives of Rowe and a neighbor, saw Rowe alive in the days after Taylor left St. Louis. Meanwhile, Taylor’s daughter in California, Deja Taylor, claimed in a court filing that she and her father called Angela Rowe and one of the children during his visit. The court filing said Deja Taylor’s mother and sister corroborated her story.
Bob McCulloch, who was St. Louis County’s elected prosecutor at the time of the killings, said Taylor’s claim of innocence was “nonsense,” and the alibis provided by his daughter and her relatives were “completely made up.”
McCulloch told The Associated Press that evidence suggested Rowe and the kids were killed on the night of Nov. 22 or on Nov. 23, at a time when Taylor was still in St. Louis. He noted that Rowe typically made around 70 outgoing calls or texts each day. Starting Nov. 23, she made none.
Meanwhile, DNA from Rowe’s blood was found on Taylor’s glasses when he was arrested and a relative who took him to the airport saw Taylor toss a gun into the sewer, McCulloch said. Authorities believe Taylor shot Rowe during a violent argument, then killed the children because they were witnesses.
The execution would be the third in three months in Missouri. Kevin Johnson was executed in November for killing a police officer in 2005. Amber McLaughlin was put to death Jan. 3 for killing a woman in 2003. It was believed to be the first execution of a transgender woman in the U.S.
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