The state of Missouri will likely execute Raheem Taylor, 58, tonight. On Dec. 9, 2004, he was arrested in connection to the murder of his then 28-year-old girlfriend Angela Rowe, and her children, Alexus, 10; AcQreya, 6; and Tyrese Conley, 5. In 2008, he was convicted and has been on Death Row ever since. There are some uncertainties about whether he is responsible for this brutal quadruple murder.
A number of activist groups have called for Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson to grant Taylor clemency. He has refused, doubting Taylor’s innocence and saying “the State of Missouri will carry out Taylor’s sentences according to the Court’s order and deliver justice for the four innocent lives he stole.”
On the flip side, NAACP President Derrick Johnson wrote a letter to Gov. Parson stating, “there are many reasons to spare Mr. Taylor's life, but they all come down to one: the state of Missouri has the life of a man in its hands, and, in this life and death decision, lies the weight of moral responsibility.” Along with other groups and progressives, Johnson believes “the evidence presented at trial does not support Mr. Taylor's conviction." The Innocence Project has also called for Taylor’s execution to be called off.
There’s a tone of evidence that could sway a particular opinion either way. When the bodies were discovered, Taylor was nowhere near the St. Louis suburb where he and Rowe lived; he’d left for California eight days prior to meet Deja, his then-13-year-old long-lost daughter, for the first time. Deja and her mother corroborate a story in which Deja and one of Rowe’s daughters spoke on the phone. If this is true, it would be impossible for Taylor to have committed those murders.
There are discrepancies about when the murders were committed—autopsies suggest the murders occurred two to three days before the bodies were discovered, which would mean Taylor would've been nearly 2,000 miles away at the time of their deaths. Yet at trial, a St. Louis County medical examiner said the murders had happened two to three weeks before discovery.
The evidence against Taylor includes the end of a pattern. According to former St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, Rowe usually made around 70 calls or texts per day. On November 23, three days before Taylor boarded a flight to California, those calls and texts stopped. McCulloch also said DNA from Rowe’s blood was found on Taylor’s glasses when he was arrested and that a relative claims they saw him throw a gun in the sewer while on the way to the airport. Another thing that obfuscates the matter is that according to the Intercept, Taylor had a deal go sour with the Gangster Disciples shortly before the murders.
No matter if Taylor was the one who committed those murders, Gangster Disciples looking for revenge, or some random act of malice, there isn’t cut-and-dry certainty. As of today, 27 states still have the death penalty and Taylor would be the third execution in Missouri in just three months. The most important question to ask here is not if Taylor is innocent or guilty, but if these barbaric punitive measures are the proper response to alleged crimes or if this too is morally repugnant. If there’s ever the tiniest bit of doubt, is this ultimate punishment ever justifiable? Should the state really have the power to strip a man of his life as determined by a system that’s already stacked against him?
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