Another Stained Brick in the State Sanctioned Wall of False Eyewitness Testimony
On October 4th, 2012, a grand jury indicted Kemen Lavatos Taylor on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder about the shooting of three teenagers. One of the victims, Rayjon Gomez, died on the spot while the other two survived the shooting. Taylor was sentenced to life without parole in a jury sentencing that lasted for 5 hours in Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to the proceedings, the case is reported to have been filled with false eyewitnesses and their testimonies.
False or Mistaken Eyewitness is not new in the United States criminal justice system. 70% of more than 375 convictions have later been revoked after post-conviction DNA analysis evidence. It is frustrating to imagine how many people have been executed because of False Eyewitnesses.
Details from the State of Minnesota Supreme Court Respondent, (2015) gave a record of incidents and testimonies. The State’s theory was as follows; Taylor transported a group of teenagers affiliated with a gang named “Young-N-Thuggin” (YNT) in his van to a neighborhood known as the “Lows” north of Minneapolis. This was supposedly in response to a retaliation shooting of Taylor’s younger brother who had been allegedly shot by Skitz who belonged to a rival gang in the North.
According to the prosecution, Taylor was therefore looking to shoot Skitz and other members of his gang. Alongside Taylor, who was by then 25 years of age, was Donquarius Copeland, Derrick Catchings, Taylor’s younger brother, M.L and T.B., all teenagers. While driving through the neighborhood, one of them thought that he had seen Skitz, Taylor parked the car after driving a little further. Catchings and Copeland jumped out and opened fire at several people in an alley. A teenager named Gomez who was 13 years old was shot and died on the spot, while another named D.T was wounded. A third victim of the incident named D.H was lucky to escape unharmed. Skitz was not among them.
As part of a plea agreement, Catchings testified and acknowledged being a member of YNT. He also took responsibility for having killed Gomez. He stated that it was Taylor’s idea that the group ride to the lows in search of Skitz or even the rival gang members just in case they missed him. At that time, Catchings had a semi-automatic handgun which he showed to Taylor and the rest of the group, which according to Kemen Taylor, never occurred. Copeland who also agreed to testify as part of a plea agreement echoed Catching’s statements in this trial. A member of YNT himself, he gave a testimony of Catchings and M.L being associates of YNT. According to him, YNT and Skitz gang had fought many times that summer.
Both Catchings and Copeland acknowledged that they never planned on involving Taylor when speaking to the police. Copeland was especially concerned about dragging others into the matter and believed that only the shooters would be held accountable.They both agreed to testify against Taylor in negotiating for guilty pleas to second-degree murder. Three other informants serving jail sentences also testified against Taylor. Everyone who testified against Kemen got something in return. Taylor, who did not agree to cut any plea deals, maintaining his innocence, was found guilty of all counts by the jury and was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree attempted murder to life without parole.
FindLaw, (2015). STATE v. TAYLOR II.Supreme Court of Minnesota.
STATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Kemen Lavatos TAYLOR, II, Appellant.
No. A14–0942. Decided: August 26, 2015
Imran, Siddiqui. (2022). Ken Taylor | FairPlay EP20 S2 | False Eyewitness Testimony Breeds Wrongful Convictions. The Injustice of False Eyewitness Testimony - A Stab in The Heart of American Justice Values. https://www.justicenews.net/post/kemen-taylor- fairplay-ep20-s2-false-eyewitness-testimony-breeds-wrongful-convictions
Likos, I. T. (2021). A Look into Wrongful Conviction within the US Justice System. The Downtown Review, 7(2), 3. https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/tdr/vol7/iss2/3/