In December 1993, a Jefferson County jury composed of eleven whites and one black convicted and sentenced Kenneth Reams, an 18-year-old black male, to death by lethal injection as an accomplice in a capital murder case.
Kenneth Reams was not innocent. There is no question that he participated in the crime that took place, but he did not pull the trigger that caused the death of the victim, Gary Turner. Months earlier, Reams and a friend, 19-year-old Alford Goodwin, had waited for a victim to rob at the Worthen National Bank ATM in Pine Bluff. It was not in the plot to take someone’s life, but that is exactly what transpired when Goodwin, who handled the gun, demanded money from the motorist, Mr. Turner. Turner opposed the demand, and Goodwin then shot and killed him.
In this case, it is clear that Kenneth Reams was not the killer. Goodwin handled the weapon and shot the victim. Months later, Alford Goodwin would decide to enter a guilty plea for his part in the crime and was sentenced, in a plea agreement, to life in prison without parole. A few days later, Reams would face a jury trial.
Even though Reams was not the actual shooter of Mr. Turner, the state sought the death penalty. During his trial, Reams was the only witness to testify that he did not shoot and kill Mr. Turner. His inexperienced defense never called Alford Goodwin to testify to being the one who actually shot Mr. Turner. When the jury came back, the verdict was guilty of capital murder. The jury could have recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole; however it chose to sentence Kenneth Reams to death by lethal injection.
For the past 20 years, Reams has remained in solitary confinement on death row in Arkansas, fighting against his execution. For Kenneth Reams to be sentenced to death and Alford Goodwin to life in prison without parole resembles an injustice.
You can learn more about the work of Kenneth Reams at:
Who Decides Inc.
You can write to Kenneth Reams at:
Kenneth Reams SK927
P.O. Box 400
Grady, Arkansas 71644
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