In a city where murder has been a scourge for decades — sometimes in the past even more of a scourge than it is today — Keilan A. Clinkscale, 22-year-old accused killer, walked freely among his friends and his foes.
It is not as if no one suspected that Clinkscale could kill. As our system of justice demands, Clinkscale is innocent until proved guilty, but prosecutors were able, at least, to show cause for his indictment in the Feb. 21, 2009, death of Melkanoe L. Bowman, 24, who was shot in the head at 946 Delaware Ave.
Initially, that was enough to keep Clinkscale in jail, after Common Pleas Court R. Judge Scott Krichbaum set bail at $200,000.
Clinkscale was to be tried before Common Pleas Judge John M. Durkin. While Clinkscale was awaiting trial, Durkin first reduced his bail to $60,000, with electronic monitoring of his whereabouts. Eventually, Durkin stopped requiring the monitoring, even though Community Corrections Association reported that Clinkscale apparently violated the court’s order that he remain under house arrest.
It is almost as if Clinkscale were rewarded for not following the rules by having the rules changed in his favor.
For valid reasons, judges do not discuss cases pending before them. In a case where there is a reasonable explanation for the judge’s action, that rule is an impediment to a judge’s being able to defend himself. On the other hand, when the action is indefensible, it allows the judge to remain silent and hope that at least some people think there’s a reasonable explanation.
Break after break
Whatever the circumstances, this much is clear. Two and a half years elapsed after Keilan A. Clinkscale was arrested in the murder of Bowman, and during that time, Clinkscale‘s bond was reduced and his house arrest was lifted.
Clinkscale was free to come and go as he pleased of late, including early this month when Oscar Teague, 56, and Jasmon Reeder, 19, were shot to death in a house on Wirt Street.
Clinkscale and Quentin T. Jones, 23, have been charged with two counts of felony murder in those deaths. They remain at large.
In a city that has seen nearly 300 homicides in the last decade, one man has been implicated in three of those deaths. And to everyone outside the criminal justice system, the failure to try an accused murderer in 21/2 years and find him either guilty or not guilty remains a mystery. Perhaps someone inside the system can provide an adequate explanation to the public.
But somehow we don’t think any explanation will be sufficient for those who knew and loved Oscar Teague and Jasmon Reeder.
There were nearly 500 murders in Youngstown in the last decade of the 20th century. And about 300 in the first decade of the 21st century. Those are appalling numbers for a city of Youngstown’s size. And there are a wide variety of debating points to be made by those who attempt to understand that level of carnage.
But one thing is clear. When police make an arrest and the grand jury indicts, it is the absolute responsibility of the prosecutor’s office and the county’s judges to see that justice is done.
Someone failed in the protracted case of Keilan Clinkscale, and time will tell whether two more people died because of it.