Leon Taylor’s execution is scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning. However, his attorneys have asked Missouri’s Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to grant a stay. In their appeal, Taylor’s attorneys argue that their client’s sentence is unjust. In addition to the appeal, Taylor’s attorneys have requested clemency from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
In 1994, Leon Taylor was arrested and charged in the death of Robert Newton. According to reports, Taylor shot and killed the 53-year-old gas station attendant in front of his 8-year-old daughter. Witnesses said the suspect attempted to shoot the child as well. However, he fled the scene when his gun malfunctioned.
Following his arrest, Taylor argued that Newton’s shooting was accidental. He claims the gun “fired accidentally,” and he denies accusations that he attempted to shoot the 8-year-old girl.
Ironically, the little girl was the prosecution’s star witness. Prosecutor Michael Hunt said the child’s testimony made a strong impact during the trial. According to Hunt, “there was not a dry eye in the jury.”
Although Taylor was convicted of murder, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision during the sentencing phase. As the jury was deadlocked, Taylor was sentenced to death by a judge.
In 2002, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment must be imposed by a jury. Therefore, Leon Taylor’s original sentence was overturned. As reported by The Guardian, the defendant was granted a sentencing re-trial. However, the new jury reaffirmed the judge’s decision. Leon Taylor was once again sentenced to death by execution.
In their appeal, Taylor’s attorneys underlined the fact that their client, a black man, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. For this reason, the attorneys suggest their client’s sentence was racially motivated. In their request for clemency, the attorneys explained that Taylor had a troubled childhood and struggled with addictions to alcohol and drugs.
Although Taylor has apologized and expressed remorse, Newton’s family continues to struggle with their loss. As reported by KansasCity.com, his brother, Dennis Smith, believes Leon Taylor has “been blessed with 20 years he shouldn’t have had.”
“I know executing him won’t make it right. Nothing will make it right. But it’s the right way to go and I think [the appeals] went on too long.”
It is unclear whether the appellate court or the governor will halt Leon Taylor’s execution. If the execution moves forward as planned, it will be Missouri’s eleventh death by lethal injection in the last 12 months.
[Image via Eye of Woden]