Leonard Taylor, set to be executed Tuesday, helped innocent man win freedom from MO prison

Nick Wagner/

Leonard Taylor, whose execution is scheduled for Tuesday, helped another prisoner prove his innocence and walk free in January.

Taylor has maintained he is innocent in the 2004 quadruple homicide for which he was given a death sentence.

Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court denied a motion to stay the 58 year old’s execution, though another petition filed by his attorneys remains under review. Gov. Mike Parson is considering a request submitted by the Midwest Innocence Project to convene a board of inquiry to investigate Taylor’s innocence claims, in addition to a clemency application.

Taylor was convicted in 2008 and incarcerated at Potosi Correctional Center, about 70 miles south of St. Louis.

It was there he met Lamont Campbell.

On July 17, 2011, Leonard Gregory was fatally shot in the City of St. Louis.

Three witnesses identified Campbell as the shooter. The first trial ended with a hung jury. Campbell was convicted at a second trial. Because he was 17 at the time of the shooting, he was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.

His first appeal was denied. In order to pursue a case at the next stage, post-conviction relief, Campbell was required to file what is called a Form 40. The court imposes a strict deadline. But Campbell had been moved to administrative segregation where he was denied access to the documents he needed. His cellmate happened to be Taylor.

Campbell told Taylor about the problems with his case as well as the trouble he was having getting the form.

Taylor, who earned his paralegal certification in prison, said he has helped several men on their cases, teaching them how to look through their legal files, go through transcripts and identify constitutional errors.

“Helping others, that has helped me along the way,” Taylor said.

Taylor helped Campbell write a letter to the court, explaining why they could not get the necessary documents filed in time, said Campbell’s appellate attorney Tory Bernsen.

With the information from the letter, the judge determined that Campbell “did all he reasonably could to ensure that his motion was timely filed and it was only because he was in administrative segregation with no access to his Form 40 at the time it was due, that it was not timely filed.”

Campbell’s post-conviction case proceeded.

In December, City of St. Louis Judge Timothy Boyer vacated Campbell’s conviction. Boyer found that Campbell’s second trial attorney failed to investigate evidence pointing to a different suspect. That included a man who had seen Gregory in a fight the night he was killed and a palm print that did not belong to Campbell. Prosecutors did not disclose exculpatory information, namely that the lead homicide detective had a romantic relationship with one of the three eyewitnesses. They are now married.

On Jan. 19, the prosecutor’s office dismissed the charges and Campbell was released, the Associated Press reported.

“Without Taylor, Lamont Campbell would still be sitting in prison for the rest of his life,” Bernsen said.

In a phone interview Monday, Taylor said another prisoner told him the news about Campbell.

“It felt like I got released,” Taylor said. “It was just so beautiful.”

Taylor, a devout Muslim, thanked Allah.

“I thanked God for shining on him (Campbell) and intervening in that situation and for him ... to be at home where he needs to be.”

On Saturday, Taylor was transported from Potosi to Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, where executions take place. Taylor has maintained he was in California at the time his girlfriend and her three children were murdered. Prosecutors alleged the murders took place before he flew to the West Coast.

Across the country, more than 3,360 people have been exonerated. That includes 52 people in Missouri, four of whom were on death row, according to the Midwest Innocence Project.