ON THE HOT SEAT

A former prosecutor and a former police investigator explain their actions in the Ellen Reasonover case 16 years ago. Their accounts don't square.

During the call, Reasonover gave a fake name and asked Chapman several times not to put her name in the paper for fear of reprisals. Chapman promised he wouldn't and asked Reasonover whether she'd come down to the station to look at mug shots. She replied that she would but said she didn't think she could positively identify the people she saw. "I don't want anybody to go to jail for something they didn't do," she told Chapman. He then urged her to try anyway, because there was a $3,000 reward for anyone who could help find the murderers.

"I don't care so much about that," Reasonover said. "Maybe that money should go to the boy's family instead."

The contents of the call were never revealed to Reasonover's jurors. Chapman later arrested Reasonover because during the first call she gave a false name and because the people she eventually picked from mug shots turned out to have alibis.

Ellen Reasonover
Jennifer Silverberg
Ellen Reasonover

Goldman did admit last week that, according to law, he should have handed over any and all taped conversations. "At the time, I didn't think it was relevant," he said.

What he did think was relevant was the taped testimony of Jolliff telling police that Reasonover admitted the murder to her in jail. That tape was submitted in Reasonover's murder trial.

Sindel noted: "Every time there was a tape recording that made Ellen Reasonover look bad, there was a police record and a transcript, wasn't there? And every time there was one that made her look good, there wasn't."

"I don't recall"

Besides the two women — Jolliff and Mary Ellen Lyner — who testified that Reasonover confessed the murder to them, police also sought out Marquita Butler, another cellmate. Her testimony at last week's hearing shed some more light on the tactics used in prosecuting Reasonover.

Butler testified last week that she originally considered lying about what Reasonover told her but backed out at the last minute.

"They wanted me to lie," Butler said on the stand, then explained that Chapman fed her all of the information about Buckley's murder she would need to testify, including the names of the two other suspects, Stanley White and Robert Macintosh. "I was making up stories to get some money, but Ellen never told me anything," Butler said.

And once she decided not to cooperate with the deception, Butler said, Chapman got "mean" and threatened to have her arrested.

Chapman said he didn't remember promising Butler any money in exchange for her testimony and didn't recall feeding her any information she would need to lie.

But Sindel then pulled out a transcript of the taped conversation between Butler and Chapman on Jan. 12, 1983. The transcript showed that Chapman promised Butler $150 to come to the station and testify and an additional $7,000 if her testimony led to Reasonover's conviction. Sindel then read aloud Chapman's words to Butler:

""OK, Robert Macintosh, was he one of them?'" Sindel read, then asked Chapman, "So you supplied the name to her, right?"

Chapman replied, "I did say that."

"Did you also say, "Stanley White is one?'"

"Yes," Chapman admitted.

"Did you threaten to have her arrested if she didn't cooperate?"

"I don't recall."

"I don't remember"

Whereas the jury never heard about the light sentence Jolliff got after she testified against Reasonover, in Lyner's case the jury never heard about her past — a past that might have severely damaged her credibility on the witness stand.

At Reasonover's murder trial, Lyner told jurors that Reasonover confessed to Buckley's murder. Lyner also admitted to the jury that she was receiving a reduced sentence for her own crimes in exchange for her testimony. But Lyner told the jury that she had never made any such deal before, and the jury and Reasonover's defense lawyers were never told otherwise by Goldman.

During last week's hearing, Ronald Klein, a St. Louis police officer, testified that in November 1982 he arrested Lyner at her apartment, where he found drug paraphernalia, narcotics, more than 300 stolen items and materials used to create false IDs. Under her bed and in her closet were dozens of stolen purses, wallets and credit cards used to purchase more than $300,000 worth of goods.

"It was probably one of the largest fraud rings ever cracked in the city of St. Louis," Klein testified, adding that Lyner was "incoherent" when she was arrested and admitted she had a $1,000-per-day drug habit. "She was a desperate person when we found her," he said.

Yet jurors at Reasonover's trial were never told about Lyner's desperation or her drug addiction. They were instead told that Lyner, who killed herself in 1990, had been arrested for "writing bad checks," even though her convictions were really for forgery.

"When she testified that she had been charged for writing bad checks, did you correct her and explain it was for forgery?" Sindel asked Goldman.

"I don't remember," Goldman an-swered.

Sindel then pointed out that forgery is far more serious than a bad-check-writing charge, in that writing bad checks simply means a person has overdrawn his or her account but forgery involves intentionally trying to pass off something as genuine that isn't.

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