Monday, August 2, 2010

Lamont Reese Speaks From the Grave

Seven days ago, on July 26, I received a surprise email from Christiane Durand. She describes herself as Michael Toney’s “French Mom”, treasurer of his Defence Committee, and 75 years young. She provided her address, which I shall not share with you. I did, however, use the magic of Google Street View to wander through her neighborhood. It’s a beautiful cityscape, near a large and stately park, just to the southwest of Paris.

Michael Toney
Christiane’s interest was in seeing Michael Toney set free. She knew of Lamont Reese because Lamont was Michael’s “neighbor and friend (quite unusual at Polunski!).” For those of you who don’t know the story (as told so far) of Lamont and Michael, you can come up to speed by reading The Disturbing Case of Lamont Reese. Alternatively, you can just read on. I will tell Lamont’s story in greater detail here than has been told before in these United States.

Lamont Reese
Lamont Reese was executed by the State of Texas not that long ago, on June 20, 2006. Reese adamantly protested his innocence up to his execution. He refused to walk to the death chamber. "I want everyone to know I did not walk to this because this is straight-up murder. I am not going to play a part in my own murder. No one should have to do that." Speaking to relatives of the victims he said: "I do not know all of your names and I don't know how you feel about me, and whether you believe it or not, I did not kill them."

Two weeks after Lamont’s execution or straight-up murder, depending on your point of view, Christiane received a letter from Michael Toney. In that letter, Michael explained that Lamont had written a letter to be opened only after he had been executed. Michael revealed the contents of that letter to Christiane, she summarized them in several emails to me, and I will soon reveal them to you. As far as I know, this will be the first time this story has been told in the U.S. Christiane informs me that the story “was published in our French newspaper l'ItinĂ©rant, which is a ‘street paper’ (to help the people without job, better than beg!), that paper where Michael Toney had a page every week to give news of his situation.”


Two days ago, on July 31, I received a surprise email from someone who had worked to free both Lamont Reese and Michael Toney. That person asks to remain anonymous, so I will refer to him hereafter as RT, for Reese and Toney. RT informed me that he too had received a letter shortly after Lamont’s execution, or straight-up murder, depending on your point of view.

On the outside of the envelope, Lamont had written “to be mailed only if the State murders me.” RT explained that Lamont had written the letter in his last hours. Understandably, RT refers to the letter frequently as “the letter from the grave.” I’ve adapted that phrase for the title of this post.

Based on a flurry of last minute emails, the story that RT tells me is the same as the one that Christiane tells me, though each includes details the other leaves out. With respect to the basic story told directly or indirectly to them by Lamont Reese, they are in complete agreement.

Based on the information Christiane and RT have provided me, and based on what I had learned of Lamont’s case before hearing from either of them, I now present as accurately as I can, the story of Lamont Reese’s crime and punishment.

It’s the first of March in 1999. It’s the 25th anniversary of the day on which the Watergate grand jury indicts seven presidential aides.

It’s 8:15 PM. The temperature is near 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The sky is clear. Though the waxing, gibbous moon hangs low in the night sky, it is bright and fully illuminated.

Three young males are drinking and playing dice outside the Stop and Shop located at 2601 South Riverside Drive, Fort Worth, Texas. They are Anthony Roney, 26, Riki Jackson, 17, and Alonzo Stewart, 25. Each is a member of the Aggland Crips. Each has but minutes to live.

Stop And Shop Today, Looking East
Looking South
Looking North
Looking West
Lamont Reese, 21, drops by in the company of Kareema Kimbrough, 18, Steve Kindred, 15, and another friend (either Brian Johnson, 19, or Jason Leadly, 14). Kareema is Lamont’s girlfriend. They haven’t been going together all that long, but Lamont is already referring to Kareema’s two-year old son, DQ, as his own.

Lamont and his friends are members of the Deuce Hoovaland Crips. Lamont himself is a street thug and drug dealer. There are not a lot of sympathetic characters in this story.

As Lamont shops inside, Kareema waits outside. The three members of the Aggland Crips make flirtatious remarks to her and she tells them to “Rent me!” That, for the delicate among you, is the response of a prostitute. It prompts the Aggland Crips to utter the words that would get them killed. "Get a job, Bitch ... Pay your own rent!"

As Lamont, Kareema, Steve, and the other friend (either Brian or Jason) drive the two-and-a-half blocks to Belize Terrace, aka “the weed house,” Kareema agitates to round up some firepower, return, and kill those who had just insulted her. At Belize Terrace, Kareema recruits another member of the Deuce Hoovaland Crips (either Brian Johnson or Jason Leadly) to join her for the assault.

Lamont Reese, however, does not want to participate. Even though Kareema wears the pants in the relationship, Lamont refuses to join her. He also refuses to allow her to take two-year old DQ with her, and he removes DQ from the car. Lamont will wait behind with DQ, as will another Deuce Hoovaland Crip, Curtis Sealy, 18. Lamont does, however, allow Kareema to use his car and the rifle he has in his car. According Christiane Durand, Lamont even shows Steve Kindred how to use his rifle.

Armed with three semi-automatic rifles and an unspecified number of handguns, Kareema drives Steve Kindred, Brian Johnson, and Jason Leadly back to the Stop and Shop. Lamont, DQ, and Curtis wait for their return, sitting on the curb. As they wait, Lamont’s marijuana supplier drops by and tells Lamont where he can pick up more weed.

At the Stop and Shop, Kareema drops off Steve Kindred, Brian Johnson, and Jason Leadly. The three armed men mow down and kill the three members of the Aggland Crips. In the process of doing so, they also wound an unidentified 13-year-old and an unidentified 24-year-old. Kareema picks the three shooters up and returns them to Belize Terrance.

Steve Kindred, Brian Johnson, and Jason Leadly disappear with the weapons. Lamont takes Kareema first to pick up the weed, and only then to the local video store. Lamont figures the security cameras at the video store will provide them an alibi. It will not. Tests later conducted on Lamont during his incarceration will place his IQ at 70.

Over the course of the next day, Steven Kindred, 15, decides that he must kill Curtis Sealy, 18, because Sealy was new to gang, refused to participate in the shooting, and was therefore a risk. Kindred manages to shoot Sealy twice, but Sealy manages to escape with his life. He is transported to the hospital. There, understandably upset about the attempt on his life, Sealy informs the police of Steven Kindred’s role in the Stop and Shop shooting as well as his own. Sealy makes no mention of Lamont in that statement to the police.

The police arrest and question Steven Kindred. Facing the needle, Kindred begins offering the police stories in exchange for his life. The police are picky shoppers so not just any story will do. They reject the initial stories. Kindred, desperate to make a deal, offers a shiny new story. It's the story of Lamont Reese, a crack dealer already known to police.

The police are smart shoppers, however. Surely, they tell the Kindred, your life is worth more than that of Lamont Reese. Kindred agrees and throws in Lamont's girlfriend, Kareema Kimbrough. Still not good enough. The haggling continues for a while, and eventually Kindred throws Jason Leadly and Brian Johnson into the mix.

That is still not good enough. It's a buyer's market; the police know it, and Kindred knows it. In exchange for his life, he gives up the next best thing in the store: his freedom. Kindred admits to being involved in the convenience store shooting and to the shooting of Curtis Sealy. The entire package for his life and a possibility of parole.

Deal, but only if Kindred throws in a lifetime warranty. No problem. If they would just allow him to talk to his girlfriend, Michelle Stevenson, he could have them a warranty in no time.

The police begin bargaining with Steven Kindred's girlfriend. If she will simply stand behind the bill of goods offered by her under-age boyfriend, they would not charge her with aggravated sexual assault. It turns out that Michelle Stevenson is 25 years old, and Steven Kindred is but an innocent 15 year old.

Michelle Stevenson takes the deal. She explains that she had been smoking crack that day, all day long. Sometime a bit before 9 PM, Lamont Reese and the others dropped by her home. Lamont bragged about shooting three men with an assault rifle, then went to a video store with Kareema.

Lamont is a dead man walking.


Here’s how it all played out.

Texas got some gang bangers off the street. They also had five convictions to boost their conviction rate, another execution to show they're tough on crime, and a voting public more willing than ever to vote for "tough-on-crime" candidates.

Shooter Steven Kindred, who confessed to the convenience store shootings AND the shooting of Curtis Sealy, avoided the needle and was rewarded with a chance for freedom in a few decades, one of which has already flown by.

Michelle Stevenson received "transactional immunity." In other words, because she testified as the police and prosecutor wished, she did no hard time for seducing the unworldly 15-year-old Steven Kindred with her crack-enhanced charms.

Shooters Jason Leadly and Brian Johnson, who were late to the sale, got a few decades in prison, assuming they keep their noses clean. Presume “noses clean” means never changing their stories about what happened that night.

Kareema Kimbrough who encouraged the shooting, and who drove the shooters to and fro, was sentenced to life in prison.

Curtis Sealy, who sat on the curb beside Lamont Reese, walked free.

Lamont Reese, who refused to participate in the shooting, who sat on the curb beside Curtis Sealy, who refused to bargain with the police, who remained silent to protect his girlfriend, died with a needle in his arm.


The state of Texas accomplished one more thing with its relatively lax treatment of Steven Kindred and its ultimate treatment of Lamont Reese. They sent a lesson to everyone who might fall within their grasp. Deal with us and you may walk free now or in the not too distant future. Remain quiet at your peril.

First to talk, walks. Last to lie, dies.

RT writes twice quickly to correct my post. I have merged the majority of his two emails together below, one after the other.
I object on two grounds. Lamont never stood up to Kareema. He did not allow her to take the car, she just took it. As for teaching Kindred how to use the SKS. Lamont would have to be the best firearms instructor in the world to teach a kid to use a gun that well in under five minutes. Kareema took that gun from the trunk and gave it to Kindred. Lamont's instruction amounted to showing how the safety worked at Kareema's insistence. Lamont was opposed to the plan but Lamont was not strong enough to stand up to Kareema. The proof is when Kareema was going to take DQ on the shooting. Lamont said no to that. DQ was not Lamont's son, but Lamont took him out of that car before it pulled away. … It took almost more courage than Lamont could muster to take that baby away from Kareema when she was in such a snit, but he found the courage to do it.

I would like to expand on my last answer. … For two and a half blocks you can bet he was being harangued with "Are you gonna let em get away with talking to me like that?" Once at the "weed house" it would have gotten even worse "Aren't you man enough to fight for what is yours?  If not maybe you don't deserve it" Once she had the backing of Kindred and the shoot was "on", what was Lamont going to do to get it turned back "off"? These boys are friends of his. Curtis tried to stop the shooting, then tried to at least stop his friend. Kareema had turned her personal revenge into a gang turf war, and Lamont was caught in the middle. Kareema expected him to go on the shooting. His out was that he was not a gang member, but Curtis was. The two of them stood their ground while … Kareema took the SKS from the trunk and gave it to Kindred. Kindred asked how the safety worked and Lamont showed him. Then Lamont grabbed DQ out of the car just before it sped away.

Lamont was an accessory after the fact though. He went with Kindred to a pawn shop and sold the murder weapon the next day. Lamont should have gotten some jail time, but a death sentence, no way.