Woman Sues Mo. for Years in Prison

August 2, 2001

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ A woman who spent 16 years in prison before her murder conviction was set aside sued the state, the prosecutor and the case's investigators for wrongful incarceration. 

Ellen Reasonover's federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges that a prosecutor withheld a secretly made jailhouse recording in which Reasonover denied killing a 19-year-old gas station attendant during a botched robbery in 1983. 

The recording contradicted the testimony of jailhouse informers who testified at Reasonover's trial. Reasonover's conviction was overturned in 1999 after her attorneys presented new evidence, including the tape recording. 

``The fact that I'm free does not make it OK that I was in jail for 16 years for something I did not commit,'' Reasonover said. 

Reasonover, 44, also claims malicious prosecution, abuse of process and negligence leading to wrongful incarceration. 

She seeks damages _ KSDK-TV reports the amount as $250 million _ for herself and her 20-year-old daughter, who was 2 when Reasonover went to prison. 

``There is no amount of money that can compensate me for the years they took off my life,'' Reasonover said. 

Among those who Reasonover's federal lawsuit names as defendants are the prosecutor, Steven Goldman, now a judge, and several officers who investigated the case. 

Messages left Wednesday night with Goldman, the St. Louis law department and the offices of Gov. Bob Holden and Attorney General Jay Nixon were not returned. 

Reasonover became a suspect in Buckley's death after she called police with a tip and gave a phony name. No witnesses saw her and no fingerprints were found, but two jail informants supplied key testimony against her. 

Reasonover could have received the death penalty but was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 50 years. 

It wasn't until 1996, 13 years into her sentence, that defense attorneys learned of the jailhouse tape of Reasonover and a former boyfriend. On the tape, both sounded angry and bewildered, at least 20 times denying involvement. 

Goldman acknowledged that Reasonover's defense attorneys should have been told of the tapes. ``The tape had a lot more information than I thought it had,'' Goldman said at the time. 

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