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Pamela Reed

Other Indiana Exonerations
Seal of Henricks County Indiana
On November 1, 1996, security guards at a Wal-Mart store in Plainfield, Indiana observed what they believed to be suspicious behavior by 36-year-old customer Pamela Reed. Reed filled a large plastic basket in her shopping cart with around $500 worth of merchandise including a computer printer, software, and toy cars, and then put the lid on the basket.

Reed then participated in a basketball shooting game that was being conducted for charity inside the store. She made two baskets and won a bag of candy. She went to a service desk to get a coupon for the candy, but declined the employee’s offer to ring up the items in her cart. She then left the store without paying for the items. Patty Waidlich, a security guard, stopped Reed in the parking lot.

Waidlich took Reed into the store’s training room. Reed stated that she thought she had paid for the items, and that there was a letter in her car that explained her actions. Then, she said she felt sick to her stomach and feared she was going to pass out. Witnesses said Reed was incoherent, confused, and slurring her speech. They said she appeared to be very ill.

Waidlich helped Reed lie down on the floor and put a blanket on her. Reed again mentioned the letter in her car. When police officer Paul Williams arrived, he found Reed lying on the floor crying and mumbling incoherently. Reed said something about calling a doctor and a blood disorder. An ambulance was summoned and took, Reed to a hospital.

On November 4, Reed was charged with theft.

In January 1997, prior to trial, Reed’s lawyer Ken Elmendorf said that at the time of the incident Reed was suffering from a medical condition called transient ischemic attack (TIA), essentially a minor stroke, caused by a rare blood disease called Protein S. Deficiency. The condition was outlined in the letter that Reed mentioned when she was stopped outside the store. That letter said:

"Mrs. Reed has a rare blood disease known as Protein S. Deficiency. This affects her clotting mechanism of her blood. If Mrs. Reed becomes disoriented, confused, difficulty with movements of either side of her body, complains of an extreme headache, or is exhibiting unusual or uncharacteristic behavior, seek medical attention immediately."

The author of that letter, Reed’s primary care physician Roger Collicott, submitted a letter to the court reporting that Reed had her first stroke in 1991 and that she had suffered from TIA since then. He stated that Reed’s TIAs caused confusion, aphasia, and the inability to communicate verbally. He opined that Reed had suffered a TIA on the day of the incident.

Collicott’s medical assistant, Pamela DeMoss, submitted a letter, dated December 5, 1996, saying that Reed had appeared “far off” and “confused” when she had visited Collicott’s office on November 1, 1996, just prior to the incident. Reed’s work supervisor, clinical psychologist Brian Teel, submitted a letter stating that on October 31, 1996—the day before the incident—Reed went home early because of a bad headache. When she came back to work on November 1, 1996, she submitted a report so riddled with errors that it had to be redone. This mistake-filled report was also presented.

Reed’s lawyer argued that the charges should be dismissed because TIA prevented her from forming the requisite intent to commit theft. The motion was denied.

On February 14, the prosecution sought to preclude Reed from raising the issue of TIA in her defense. The State argued that TIA did not count as a mental disease or defect under the insanity statute and therefore could not be raised as a defense. Elmendorf responded that he was not raising an insanity defense, but rather that Reed did not knowingly or intentionally take Wal-Mart’s property.

Reed went to trial on February 18, 1997 in Hendricks County Circuit Court, before Judge J.V. Boles. The prosecution's case consisted of the testimony of Waidlich, Williams, Kevin Nolen—the general manager of the store—and Elaine Hubbard, who also saw Reed when she was in the training room.

Judge Boles granted the prosecution’s motion to exclude the TIA evidence. The defense sought to call Teel as a witness, but the trial judge would not allow him to testify. Outside of the jury’s presence, Teel testified that someone suffering from TIA could be “totally unaware of [her] surroundings and yet repeatedly going [sic] through common tasks that we've done a hundred times a thousand times . . . without the awareness of what [she's] doing.” Teel characterized TIA as a form of temporary insanity.

The following day, the trial judge said, “[t]he proposal by that expert witness that was here yesterday [Dr. Teel] is inherently unreliable...I will sanction any attorney in this room who violates it by immediate jailing ...”

DeMoss testified that Reed appeared dazed, disoriented, and confused on November 1, 1996, that she had seen Reed that way before, and that she had been concerned about her.

With the scope of his testimony limited by the judge, Teel testified that Reed had been confused at work and described the mistake-filled report she had written.

Reed's husband, Steven Reed, testified that when he saw Reed at the hospital after the incident, she appeared confused.

Rexine Lane testified that on the date in question, Reed was obviously ill.

Collicott then testified. After he was asked whether he was aware of what the hospital had treated Reed for on November 1, 1996, the court told the jury "That…testimony from this witness is not relevant to this case, ladies and gentlemen. The medical condition of this defendant is not an issue before you in your decisions.”

Finally, Pamela Reed testified. The only thing she remembered about the day in question was Officer Williams yelling at her. She said that she did not remember anything else that happened in Wal-Mart or her appointment with Dr. Collicott earlier that day.

The judge did allow Collicott’s letter that had been in Reed’s car at the time of the incident to be admitted into evidence, but only to prove that the letter existed. The court did not permit the jury to know the contents of the letter or allow the jury to see it during deliberations "because any probative value for it is outweighed by the contents of the letter which have nothing to do with this case."

The court instructed the jury: "Testimony has been heard in this case regarding defendant's state of confusion, disorientation, and lapse of memory on the date prior to the incident as well of day of the incident. You are instructed that this evidence is irrelevant and should not be considered by you…in your determination of guilt or innocence in this trial."

On February 21, 1997, the jury convicted Reed of theft. She was sentenced to two weekends in jail and one year of probation.

Reed appealed and on April 27, 1998, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Reed’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court ruled that “the trial court abused its discretion by prohibiting Reed from offering evidence of TIA.” It found that although TIA could cause a form of temporary insanity, Reed was invoking it not as “an abnormal mental condition,” but as “a physical condition manifested in a person of sound mind” that “affected her mental state.”

Therefore, the court held “that evidence of TIA was relevant to determine whether Reed voluntarily committed theft” because she was “arguing that her inability to voluntarily and knowingly commit theft was caused by a physical condition, manifested in a person of a sound mind.”

The trial court ordered prosecution to decide whether to retry Reed within one month. On June 12, 1998, when the prosecution had not responded, the court issued an order giving the prosecution a month to make a decision.

Again, the prosecution failed to respond.

On September 1, Reed’s lawyer filed a motion requesting that the court dismiss her conviction. On September 10, when the prosecution still had not responded, the court dismissed the charge.

– Simon Cole

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Posting Date: 3/29/2018
Most Serious Crime:Theft
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1996
Sentence:4 days
Age at the date of reported crime:36
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No