The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to block the execution of Missouri inmate Leonard Taylor, who was sentenced to death for the 2004 murder of his live-in girlfriend and her three children. Taylor had asked the justices to put his execution on hold and give him a new hearing where a state court could consider evidence that he said would prove him innocent.
The justices turned down Bailey’s request in a brief, unsigned order. There were no dissents recorded.
Shortly after the court’s order, Missouri executed Taylor by lethal injection.
Taylor was convicted in 2008 on four counts of first-degree murder. The bodies of Taylor’s girlfriend, Angela Rowe, and her three children – 10-year-old Alexus, 6-year-old Acqreya, and 5-year-old Tyrese – were discovered on Dec. 3, 2004, in the house that she shared with Taylor.
In his filings in the Supreme Court, Taylor pointed to a variety of evidence that he said demonstrated his innocence. The case against Taylor rested in part on statements made by his brother, who initially told police that Taylor had confessed to the murders, but Taylor said that those statements were coerced. Prosecutors also relied on testimony by the medical examiner about precisely when the victims were killed, but Taylor asserted that the medical examiner changed his testimony to undermine Taylor’s alibi. And Taylor offered evidence that the victims were still alive when he left Missouri in November 2004 to travel to California to meet his daughter for the first time. That daughter, Deja Taylor, is now an adult, and both she and her mother say that they spoke on the phone with Rowe and one of her children while Taylor was in California.
Taylor urged the justices to take up his case to decide whether the Constitution bars the execution of an innocent person or, at the very least, whether an execution should go forward when there are “reasonable and substantial doubts” about the inmate’s guilt.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey countered that “Taylor’s claims of innocence present nothing new and nothing that could raise doubts about the jury’s verdict.” The state provided “ample review” of Taylor’s assertions, both in the courts and through his efforts to seek clemency from the governor, Bailey wrote. And in any event, Bailey added, Taylor waited until just four days before his execution to try to stop it.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.