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Reginald Love POWELL





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: November 14, 1986
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: July 23, 1968
Victims profile: Freddie L. Miller, 39, and Lee Arthur Miller, 29 (brothers)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Missouri on February 25, 1998

clemency petition


State of Missouri v. Reginald Love Powell

798 S.W. 2d 709 (Mo. Banc 1990)

Reginald Love Powell was executed on February 25, 1998

Case Facts:

On November 14, 1986 Reginald Powell went to a liquor store with three other companions to obtain alcohol. When they arrived at the store, the quartet met with Freddie and Lee Miller. Powell asked the two brothers to purchase some liquor for him and his companions since they were all under age. The Miller brothers refused.

Later that evening, the four men once again ran into the Miller brothers in the backyard of a friend of Powell’s. The Miller brothers had been drinking and were intoxicated as was Powell who had been drinking earlier in the evening.

Upon seeing the Miller brothers Powell mad a derogatory remark to them and called for his companions to rob them. One of the Millers called the group "punks" at which time the group attacked the brothers and knocked them to the ground. The Millers were brutally beaten by the group who kicked them, and hit them with bricks, boards and tree branches. At one point Lee Miller begged for his life.

Following the beating by the group, Reginald Powell jumped up and down on the chest of the two victims who were still laying on the ground breaking most of their ribs. Powell and two others searched the victims for valuables recovering only three dollars and a pack of cigarettes. The rest of the group left the scene leaving Powell alone with the two battered brothers.

Powell then stabbed Freddie and Lee Miller three times each in the chest and abdomen with a martial arts butterfly knife. Both brothers died from internal bleeding caused by the stab wounds.

After stabbing the victims Powell caught up with the others carrying a bloody knife which he wiped off by sticking the blade in the ground. He told the others that he had "stuck" and "stabbed" the victims and said "Don’t bring no knife if you ain’t going to use it."

The Police learned of Powell’s involvement in the murders form his step - brother. Police arrested Powell the next day and under questioning he admitted that he had committed the murders.

Legal Chronology

06/22 - Arrested for Receiving Stolen Property in St. Louis City. Suspended sentence and six months probation.
11/14 – Reginald Powell stabbed Freddie and Lee Miller to death during a robbery.
12/2 – Powell was charged in an indictment by the St. Louis City Circuit Court with two counts of murder first degree, two counts of robbery first degree and one count of armed criminal action.

3/16 – Powell’s trial begins in St. Louis Circuit Court for two counts of murder first degree. The other charges were not prosecuted.
3/25 – The jury finds Powell guilty of each count of murder first degree, but is unable to agree on a punishment.
4/15 – The trial court sentenced Powell to death on each count of murder first degree.
12/1 - Powell filed a motion for post-conviction relief in the St. Louis City Circuit Court.

4/10-11, 18 – A hearing is held in St. Louis Circuit Court on Powell’s motion for post-conviction relief.
10/13 – The Court denied Powell’s motion of post-conviction relief.

11/20 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed Powell’s convictions and sentences and the denial of post-conviction relief.

6/28 – The United States Supreme Court declined discretionary review.
7/5 – Powell filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Missouri.

8/15 – The U.S. District Court denied Powell’s habeas corpus petition.

5/1 – The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s denial of Powell’s habeas corpus petition.

1/12 – The U.S. Supreme court declined discretionary review.
1/22 – The Missouri Supreme Court set Powell’s execution for February 25, 1998.


Reginald Powell, convicted of killing 2 brothers in a drunken brawl, was executed by injection early Wednesday after unsuccessfully arguing that he did not receive an adequate defense from an attorney who became his lover.

Powell, 29, was pronounded deaed at 12:04 a.m. at the Potosi Correctional Center in southeast Missouri.

As the 1st drug was administered, Powell blinked 4 times, puffed a couple of times then coughed twice. His final words were "I love my family."

The case drew national attention because of the affair between Powell and his original trial lawyer, Marianne Marxkors, relationship that she said clouded her judgment.

Marxkors admitted she began falling in love with Powell soon after she was appointed as a public defender to handle his case. After his conviction, they had their first sexual encouonter in a holding cell near a St. Louis courtroom.

During the trial, prosecutors offered a plea bargain of life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Marxkors turned it down and never put Powell on the stand during the penalty phase. She said later she thought she could somehow get Powell off on a manslaughter conviction.

Powell's attorneys had sought commutation of the sentence to life in prison. Marxkors, now 45, pleaded unsuccessfully Tuesday with Gov. Mel Carnahan for the life of a man she has called her "soul mate."

She said that "had he had a fair trial, and the jury decided to kill him, that would be 1 thing. But I took that away from him. This verdict is colored by my lack of objectivity and my mistakes."

Prosecutors have said Powell's affair did not interfere with the verdict and there was not evidence that the plea bargain had not been offered to him.

Court records show that Powell grew up virtually without parental supervision in rough St. Louis neighborhoods. 1 test put his IQ at 65.

Prosecutors said that Powell and another man beat and killed Freddie Miller, 39, and his brother, Arthur Miller, 29, during a drunken brawl in St. Louis in 1986.

After the other man stopped, Powell kept going, stomping both men so hard he broke nearly all of their ribs. Then he stabbed the brothers to death and robbed them of $3 and a pack of cigarettes.


Reginald Powell (Executed 2/25/98) 

Reginald Powell was barely 18 years old when he killed Freddie Miller and Lee Miller in St. Louis after they apparently had attacked him.  Powell, who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, had been found to have an IQ of 65 and had been previously placed in a public school special education program.  Testing also indicated that Powell was severely impaired by an Auditory Selective Attention Disorder. 

Powell’s trial was hampered by the fact that his inexperienced trial attorney had an affair with him and did not represent his interests effectively.  A competent lawyer would have recommended accepting the state’s offer to plead guilty in return for a life sentence.  Powell’s attorney was devastated by his conviction.  By not informing her client of his fundamental right to testify, Powell's attorney adversely affected the fairness of the trial.  Even without hearing from Powell, the jury could not agree on a death sentence, so it was the trial judge alone who made the sentencing decision.


Missouri man on death row seeks clemency because he had affair with his attorney

March 2, 1998

Marianne Marxkors has visions of Reginald Powell strapped to a gurney, waiting for the injection that will kill him. She feels partly responsible.

Marxkors was Powell's trial lawyer, and after his conviction, his lover. She now admits she should have adverse him to accept a plea bargain that would have kept him off Death Row, but her emotions got in the way of her judgment.

Powell is scheduled to be executed Feb. 25 for stomping and stabbing two brothers to death in 1986. Powell's current lawyer, Bruce Livingston, has asked Gov. Mel Carnahan to commute the sentence, claiming Marxkors' relationship with Powell kept her from providing an adequate defense.

Marxkors, who was 35 when she became romantic with her client, and Powell were complete opposites. Marxkors was an educated, White lawyer. Powell, who is borderline retarded, grew up virtually without parental supervision in rough St. Louis neighborhoods.

She said she fell in love with him long before they first had sex in a cell near a St. Louis courtroom.

"It was all emotion," said Marxkors, a state public defender who had never taken a death penalty case to trial until she got the call to serve as Powell's attorney. "I felt so alone and so vulnerable, and I guess he did. And we had each other."

On Nov. 14, 1986, Powell was high on PCP and drunk, but he wanted more alcohol. He encountered Freddie L. Miller, 39, and Lee Arthur Miller, 29. Powell was 18 and underage for buying liquor, so he asked them to get some for him. They refused.

Later that day, Powell and a group of friends again came across the Miller brothers. This time Powell attacked them and stabbed the brothers to death and robbed them of $3 and a pack of cigarettes.

Powell told the New York Times that his death sentence is unfair because his lawyer "didn't have the skills to get me a life sentence." The two remain friends, and she continues to visit him often.

Said Marxkors, who has subsequently given up law, "I don't want him to be there alone. I can't imagine having all these people staring at you and not seeing one face of somebody who cares."

Marxkors was never disciplined for the relationship.


Lawyer-Client Intimacy Prompts Death Row Plea

By Shirley Christian - The New York Times

February 16, 1998

It was hardly a crime to attract much attention in a hard-bitten urban environment. Four teen-agers high on drugs and alcohol encountered two brothers, both around 30 and both drunk, in a tough neighborhood of St. Louis one November night in 1986.

Name-calling, quarreling and a rumble ensued. Three of the youths took off with a few stolen dollars. Reginald L. Powell, at 18 the eldest of the attackers, stayed behind to finish off the victims with a knife.

He was arrested the next day, tried in March 1988, found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Feb. 25 at Missouri's maximum security prison at Potosi.

But behind this seemingly open-and-shut case of murder and justice lies a remarkable story that supporters of Mr. Powell believe qualifies him for clemency and commutation of the sentence to life without parole.

His lawyer, a woman then 35 years old, became emotionally involved with Mr. Powell, who is mildly retarded, while she was preparing for the trial. Later, she had sexual relations with him in a holding cell at the state circuit court building in St. Louis.

His present lawyer, Bruce D. Livingston, a Federal public defender, says this emotional involvement contributed to mistakes that the lawyer made in presenting the case, among them not having him plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence and not putting him on the stand.

The lawyer, Mary Ann Marxkors, subsequently gave up law, but she has continued to see Mr. Powell in prison. Ms. Marxkors does not dispute the criticism and argues that in her efforts to help Mr. Powell she fell into a situation beyond her control.

''It was my first death-penalty case, and I spent a lot of time with him to gain his trust,'' Ms. Marxkors said in a tearful telephone interview from her home in St. Louis. ''I came to know a lot about where he came from, what his life had been. Yet, he was always caring toward me.

''It was such an intense sort of thing,'' Ms. Marxkors, who was a state public defender, said of the trial period. ''It became physical when the judge told me he was going to sentence Reggie to death. I went and told him, and I cried and he kissed me, and we ended up making love.''

At the next hearing, when the sentence was formally issued, they again made love in the holding room. ''It was several months before I began to ask myself, 'What the hell am I doing?' '' Ms. Marxkors said.

Mr. Powell, now 29, said in a telephone interview from the prison that he considered his death sentence unfair because his lawyer ''didn't have the skills to get me a life sentence.'' But he said they remain friends and that she visits him often.

''We are human,'' he said, ''so we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, this might cost me my life. But we don't hardly talk about what's going to happen to me.''

Ms. Marxkors added: ''I continue to see him, to write to him, to talk to him. I love him.'' She said she will be there on his execution night, if he wants her to be.

Both Mr. Livingston and Ms. Marxkors said the only hope for Mr. Powell now is that Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, will respond to Mr. Livingston's clemency petition by commuting the sentence or granting a stay of execution.

The United States Supreme Court refused in January to accept the case for review, which Mr. Livingston said ended all judicial possibilities.

Mr. Livingston, who became Mr. Powell's lawyer in 1995 as the case was going into the Federal appeals process, said that because Mr. Powell is mentally slow and has had little support from his own destitute family -- his mother and grandmother are dead -- he became unduly dependent on Ms. Marxkors, one of the few people to show long-term interest in him.

Mr. Livingston also said he was outraged that a well-educated woman of a mature age could not better handle her dealings with a vulnerable young man who ''doesn't have a real comprehension of the mistakes she made.''

Mr. Livingston also emphasized Mr. Powell's difficult childhood. ''He was born to a 14-year-old mother,'' Mr. Livingston said. ''His grandmother, who was 30, wouldn't go to the hospital for his birth because the bars were still open.''

As a child, Mr. Powell was given marijuana even before he became a teen-ager and eventually was placed in a state home for boys ''in response to the impassioned plea of a school principal,'' Mr. Livingston added.

''But he was put out a year later because of overcrowding,'' Mr. Livingston said. ''He changed schools 16 times.''

Ms. Marxkors's mental health has also played a role in the case. She said that she has been in therapy off and on for about 15 years but was not in therapy at the time of the trial. Mr. Livingston said that in the clemency petition he had tried ''to make a persuasive case that this woman is troubled.'' He said that the petition was accompanied by a videotape of her talking with an Illinois state psychiatrist.

''A stack of amazing letters from her was confiscated from Reggie's death-row cell,'' Mr. Livingston said. ''They varied in tone from that of a junior high school romance to the smutty and obscene things you might read in Penthouse or some other magazine.''

It was the discovery of those letters by prison authorities in 1988 that set off the chain of events surrounding Ms. Marxkors.

''Love and emotions can be so powerful,'' Ms. Marxkors said in her defense. ''Anyone can be blinded. The initial physical part was very emotional and driven by vulnerability and this shared thing.

''It certainly wasn't anything I ever planned.''

Ms. Marxkors was warned by the bar association that her conduct was ''inappropriate,'' but she was not formally admonished or disbarred.

Now working with troubled children while studying for a master's degree in social work, Mrs. Marxkors said she realized that there was a great gap in the way she saw Mr. Powell and his crime and the way the jury and judge looked at him and the crime.

She said she approached the case from the position that the two killings were not premeditated and that conviction would be for manslaughter, not first-degree murder.

''When I first interviewed him and noticed his retardation I thought that he couldn't even premeditate going to the bathroom,'' she said.

She also said it was not Mr. Powell who brought the knife that night, but another youth who handed it to Mr. Powell at some point in the fight, further suggesting the absence of premeditation.

Ms. Marxkors said she had not put him on the stand to testify in his own behalf and plead remorse for the killings because she had used his mental impairment as an important aspect of her defense and feared that while on the stand he might not seem as impaired as he was.

''Reggie would talk about wanting to testify,'' she added, ''but it wasn't the way I had planned to do it, so I pooh-poohed that idea. I didn't even tell him he had a right to testify.''

She said she had not tried to plea bargain for a lesser sentence because the state delayed a considerable time before making an offer and when it was made, it was for four consecutive life sentences. She opposed the offer, believing that Mr. Powell would be convicted only of manslaughter, which would have resulted in a lesser sentence.

''Even the prosecutor told me at one point not to worry so much because they would never kill this kid,'' she recalled.

Mr. Livingston said the state public defender who took over the case after the trial challenged the effectiveness of her representation. But a number of procedural barriers at both the state and Federal level had prevented consideration of the merits of the case in the appeals process, Mr. Livingston said.

''The U.S. Supreme Court,'' he added, ''sees its job as correcting the mistakes of the state courts. But if lawyers make mistakes in presenting information to state courts, that does not get reviewed.''



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