CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Innocent Until Reported Guilty

Prison_cell__article As guards led Ellen Reasonover to the van that would transport her to prison, she could not comprehend that a St. Louis County, Mo., jury had just found her guilty of a cold-blooded murder. A 24-year-old single mother of a baby daughter, Reasonover had no history of violence, yet she stood convicted of killing a 19-year-old gas station attendant in the neighborhood where she lived.

She had come to the attention of police only after she answered a television broadcast requesting potential witnesses to offer information. Motivated by good citizenship, Reasonover showed up at the local police precinct because she had visited the service station the night of the murder, seeking change for the washing machine and dryer at a local Laundromat. She told police she had not seen any criminal activity; she had walked away after nobody responded to her knock on the service station window. 

Somehow, though, police saw in Reasonover — an African-American woman who exhibited nervousness — the profile of a suspect. Now it appeared Reasonover might spend the remainder of her life in prison, spared from death row only because one of the 12 jurors held out against execution. [Mark Godsey]

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