Records Show Many Asked Governor to Spare Richard Clay's Life
JEFFERSON CITY - New details emerged Wednesday on a Target 8 investigation KOMU has been following for the last couple of months. In early January, Governor Jay Nixon spared the life of convicted killer Richard Clay. Nixon has stayed mostly silent about why he commuted Clay's death sentence, but did say he still believes Clay is guilty. Records released Wednesday by the Associated Press show hundreds of people asked Nixon to reconsider Clay's death sentence.
The records show Nixon's office received more than 300 phone calls, 200 petition signatures and 175 emails, letters and faxes. The records show that many concerns came from Missouri residents who do support the death penalty but said they question Clay's guilt.
Clay was supposed to die by lethal injection last month for the 1994 murder of Randy Martindale from New Madrid. The Missouri Supreme Court and the 8th District Circuit Court have upheld Clay's conviction, but Clay maintains his innocence. Court documents show there is no physical evidence linking Clay to the crime scene. Prosecutors relied on witness testimonies and crime scene analysis to convict Clay in 1995. Police never found the murder weapon.
Clay's parents said even Martindale's best friend made efforts to support Clay's innocence.
"He said 'My heart said I had to do something because I don't want to see an innocent man put to death," Tommy Cox, Clay's father, said.
A spokesman for Nixon said Wednesday the letters and emails did not play as prominent of a role in Nixon's decision to commute Clay's sentence as the trial transcripts and court files. This is the first execution Nixon has commuted since taking office and only the third time a Governor spared the life on an inmate since 1977 when Missouri reinstated the death penalty.