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Mary Reed

Mary Reed was convicted of manslaughter following a 1972 shooting in a bar in Mount Vernon, New York. In 1985, her conviction was overturned and she was awarded compensation for her imprisonment and unjust conviction, only to later have the compensation revoked.
According to the sole witness, a barmaid named Claretta Mitchell Booker, a man approached Mary Reed with a razor in his hand in a Mount Vernon, New York, bar on the night of January 7, 1972. Booker alleged that Reed shot this man, John Banks, to death. The authorities arrested Reed based on a rent receipt with her name on it left in the bar and the identification made by Booker. Reed claimed that she had amnesia on the night in question and had no memory of the event. In February 1972, she was indicted for manslaughter and possession of a weapon.
Booker’s testimony provided the most substantive evidence in the case against Reed, which went to trial in April 1973. The prosecution successfully relied on Booker’s testimony regarding Reed as the shooter, but then sought to undermine her credibility regarding her statement that Banks had approached Reed with a razor, which suggested Reed had been acting in self-defense. The jury convicted Reed of first-degree manslaughter and felony possession of a weapon. Her conviction was based on Booker’s testimony and the rent receipt, despite the fact that on one else from the bar saw Reed there that night and there was no physical evidence connecting Reed to the crime. She was sentenced to an indeterminate term of four to fifteen years and, in 1974, her conviction was affirmed.
On October 14, 1975, Reed was paroled after serving three years in prison. The following year, her conviction was reversed by the Court of Appeals and her indictment dismissed based on lack of evidence connecting Reed to the crime. Part of the decision for the reversal rested on the refusal of the original trial court to allow a medical expert to testify on behalf of Reed regarding her history of amnesia stemming from a 1965 car accident and her amnesia on the night of the crime. The Court of Appeals also found that the prosecution had failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because it had not produced one single witness other than Booker who saw Reed in the bar.
In 1984, the State of New York passed the Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Act, which entitled citizens wrongly convicted and/or imprisoned to compensation for their hardships. Reed filed a claim under this new Act in 1985, stating that she deserved compensation for her time in prison. On December 12, 1985, the Court determined that Reed was unjustly convicted and imprisoned and found the state liable. On August 10, 1987, the Supreme Court of New York affirmed this finding. Finally, on June 21, 1990, Reed was awarded $450,000 in damages.
On March 21, 1991, Reed’s case went before the New York Court of Appeals with the state’s claim that no definite, clear or convincing proof existed that Reed did not commit any of the crimes for which she had been convicted, and therefore she was not entitled to compensation. On May 7, 1991, Reed lost her awarded compensation. The Court stated that a reversal of a conviction did not mean actual innocence. Reed was never compensated.
– Researched by Kate Fontaine
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Reported Crime Date:1972
Sentence:4 to 15 years
Race/Ethnicity:Don't Know
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors: