NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Members of the group Unheard Voices Outreach marched to the Capitol steps in downtown Nashville, as they chanted for the release of Donald Clemons.
The now 40-year-old man was arrested four days after his 16th birthday back in 1996. Clemons says he was with two friends at the time when they all planned to rob a Kingston Springs home.
Clemons describes what happened in detail on a website dedicated to his release and the release of Shawnda James.
In his retelling of the events, Clemons says he barely entered the home when he heard a scuffle between one of his friends and a man inside the home. One friend fired a shotgun which killed the man, sending the other boys running from the scene.
Clemons and his friends were arrested on November 12. After 16 months of trials and hearings, Clemons agreed to a plea deal and was sentenced to 25 years at 100 percent for second-degree murder and 12 years at 30 percent for aggravated battery.
Then-governor Phil Bredesen granted clemency for Clemons in 2012 after agreeing that he was not capable of making healthy choices given his age and traumatic upbringing. Since then, Clemons has seen the parole board five times and has never been released.
Clemons goes before the board again on Tuesday and teen justice advocates like Rahim Buford say it’s time Clemons is given the second chance he’s been promised.
“Tennessee is one of the states that’s harsh on individuals under the age of 18. We are not recognizing that youth brains are different from adult brains,” Buford said.
Buford and Clemons both work with the group Unheard Voices Outreach which helps to amplify the voices of incarcerated individuals. Buford says he and Clemons have also worked to launch another organization called Project New Beginning meant to help people convicted of crimes find their way after incarceration.