(Jefferson City) -- On February 2, 2023, attorneys from The Midwest Innocence Project, the Innocence Project, and Philips Black sent a request to Gov. Parson to say the execution of Leonard Taylor and appoint an independent board of inquiry pursuant to 552.070 RSMo. to investigate the conviction and death sentence of Leonard “Raheem” Taylor.
Board of Inquiry Request
The request addresses the issues of actual innocence, which had never been asserted as an argument in a court proceeding for Mr. Taylor, and notes the following:
The victims were alive after Leonard Taylor flew to Los Angeles on November 26, 2004.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Jane Turner discredits the medical examiner’s trial testimony regarding the time of the victim’s death.
Perry Taylor’s recorded statements to the police did not constitute a confession by Leonard Taylor and were obtained by coercion and threats, which discredits Mr. Perry Taylor’s accounts, according to Mr. James Trainum, an Interrogations/Confessions expert.
Furthermore, Leonard Taylor never received a constitutional trial, and his current counsel “effectively abandoned him,” failing to investigate and present evidence of innocence and “abdicating their duties as counsel to the St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney.”
Because of these failures, MADP joins in support of these organizations and their call to Governor Parson to use his executive powers to call a board of inquiry and halt the execution of Leonard “Raheem” Taylor until a thorough investigation can be done.
Experts Weigh In: Time of Death
Between January 25th and February 3rd, 2023, four experts in their respective fields of forensic pathology and law enforcement expertise in Interrogations & Confessions have weighed in on critical aspects that were pivotal to the conviction and death sentence of Leonard Taylor, an innocent person.
Dr. Jane Turner, Affidavit - concludes, “Although I need to perform a thorough review of the autopsy report, photographs, and related investigative materials, there is a significant scientific probability that a full review would discredit Dr. Burch’s trial testimony that the deaths could have occurred more than a week and as much as two to three weeks earlier.”
New! Dr. James Filkins, Statement - concludes, “ It is my opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Dr. Burch’s initial assessment that the deaths occurred within a week prior to December 3, 2004, with a day or two as a margin of error for the earliest time of death, that is, November 25th or 26th, is consistent with the post-mortem findings and the time frame of six days from November 27, 2004, when Ms. Rowe was reportedly last seen alive to December 3, 2004, when she and her children were found dead. It is also my opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that Dr. Burch’s trial testimony that the bodies could have been in the house for up to two or three weeks is incorrect and unsupported by the post-mortem findings. If I had been asked to review the case materials at the time of trial in 2008, or any time thereafter, I would have offered the same opinion.”
Dr. Phillip Burch’s credibility has previously come into question after the exoneration of Patricia Stallings, who spent years wrongfully convicted and unjustly incarcerated after her infant died of a rare medical condition. Dr. Burch had performed the autopsy on Ryan, and even after testing proved that he and a sibling did suffer from a rare condition that mimicked poisoning, Dr, Burch refused to concede that his findings were erroneous.
Experts Weigh In: Interrogation & Confession of Perry Taylor, brother of Leonard Taylor
Mr. James Trainum, Initial report - discusses how Perry Taylor, the brother of Leonard “Raheem” Taylor, was coerced in his police interviews to provide incorrect information, and the tactics of the interrogation impacted the reliability of his account. On page 3 of the report, Mr. Trainum spoke of accounts taken from police reports and the 2008 trial transcript, accounts of threats that Perry Taylor reported having received: “At one point the investigators denied that they had threatened Perry. Perry made his beliefs clear, telling the investigators, “Yes, you have threatened me with my job, my future, my freedom. You all talking about five to seven years for some shit I didn’t do.” A bit later, Perry said “The matter of fact is that’s a threat to me.” One of the investigators replied “Well it should be… in your mind it should be.”
To be clear, the police and Attorney General's narratives that Leonard Taylor confessed to the murders are wholly misleading and outright lies concocted from the statement Perry Taylor provided - under duress - that his brother had confessed to him. Leonard Taylor has never admitted to killing his loved ones and has always maintained his innocence.
New! Mr. James Trainum, Supplemental report - After a review of the videotape transcript of the interrogation of Perry Taylor, Mr. Trainum reinforced his original conclusions regarding the tactics used during the interrogation. “Conclusion: There is evidence in the transcript of his videotaped interrogation that supports Perry’s claim that prior to the videotaped interrogation, an unrecorded and undocumented interrogation occurred in a vehicle. The evidence indicates that during this unrecorded interrogation, the investigators inappropriate [sic] threatened Perry with imprisonment for an extended period of time and inappropriately provided him with information about the case.”
New! Mr. David Thompson, Report - outlines several areas of concern, including “Allegations of Abuse,” specifically stating, “In the available evidence, including Mr. Perry Taylor’s deposition and trial testimony, there are allegations that he was coached on what statements to provide by law enforcement. Mr. Taylor also states that he was threatened during these non-recorded encounters. If these allegations are founded, the tactics used by investigators would immediately render any statement as involuntarily and unreliable.”
Mr. Thompson concluded his report with, “This initial review of available evidence and testimony suggests a strong likelihood that Mr. Perry Taylor’s statements are a result of coercive and improper interrogation techniques. Many, if not all, of these tactics have been advocated against in the last several years due to their known contribution to unreliable or false confessions. The use of Mr. Perry Taylor’s statements as evidence in the underlying case is of great concern to its reliability and requires a more comprehensive overview regarding the contamination of lack of substantiated details.”
Conviction Integrity & Review Unit (CIRU) Request
In addition to asking the Governor to call a board of inquiry, these new expert statements should be sufficient enough new evidence to file a motion under 547.031 RSMo. In 2019 St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Wesley Bell, announced the creation of a Conviction & Incident Review Unit (CIRU). As outlined in an article in the St. Louis American that year, this CIRU will be mandated to review “cases involving substantiated claims of wrongful prosecution or conviction and all matters relating to police officer-involved shootings and alleged police misconduct.” In light of this, we urge Mr. Bell to investigate the coercion & abuses suffered by Mr. Perry Taylor in the Jennings Police Department by members of the Major Case Squad and to file a motion under the 547.031 RSMo statute to compel a stay of execution for Leonard Taylor and to seek an evidentiary hearing of these credible claims of innocence.