'You will not break my spirit': Leonard Taylor speaks out day before execution date


Leonard "Raheem" Taylor answered the phone exuberantly on Monday from a prison in eastern Missouri.

The 58 year old is scheduled to be executed Tuesday. But he said he remains hopeful.

"I know I got a lot of people supporting me," he said.

That includes his family, legal team and others who support his innocence claims or are opposed to the death penalty.

"If Allah sees fit and he gives me reprieve and allows it to pass me," Taylor a devout Muslim, said, then he can "go ahead on and show my innocence in court."

Taylor has maintained he is innocent since he was charged in a quadruple homicide and sentenced to death in 2008. He says he was halfway across the country when his girlfriend Angela Rowe and her three young children were fatally shot at their home near St. Louis.

Their bodies were discovered Dec. 3, 2004.

Surveillance video shows Taylor boarded a Southwest flight from St. Louis to southern California a week before, on Nov. 26, 2004.

Initially, investigators said the victims had been killed up to a few days before they were discovered.

But during the trial, St. Louis County medical examiner Phillip Burch told jurors that the temperature in the house had been in the 50s, which led to the estimated time of death changing. The murders could have taken place two to three weeks before the bodies were discovered - when Taylor would still have been in town.

On Jan. 25, forensic pathologist Jane Turner cast doubt on Burch's finding, saying there was evidence of rigor mortis when the victims were discovered. That would not last more than a week after death even with the cold temperature in the house, according to Turner. Other postmortem changes that would occur a week or more after death were not present.

Based on Turner's findings, Taylor would have been thousands of miles away on the West Coast when the murders took place.

In court documents filed in opposition to a stay of execution, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey's office argued that competing expert testimony was not enough to prove innocence.

On Saturday, Taylor was transferred from Potosi Correctional Center to Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, in Bonne Terre, where executions take place.

The death warrant goes into effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"If it's just my time for going on home - from Allah we come, to Allah we return," Taylor said. "If that's what it is, I accept that without any anger, without any frustration, without any hatred or anything like that. One thing you will not do, you will not break my spirit."

Multiple efforts to delay the execution are ongoing.

Taylor's attorneys have filed a petition with the Missouri Supreme Court to halt the execution. They have also sent a clemency petition to Gov. Mike Parson's office.

The Midwest Innocence Project has asked Parson to convene a board of inquiry to investigate Taylor's innocence claims.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty has been advocating on Taylor's behalf and U.S. Rep. Cori Bush has called on the execution to be stopped.


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