A new twist

Well, folks, we have a new twist in the case.

Elijah Reid has filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, seeking $17 million because he claims Rock Island County Jail correctional officers Jeff Stulir and Bryan Browne did not let him use the jail’s law library, though Judge Walter Braud ordered he be allowed to use it for an hour a day.

You can read the full, handwritten text of the complaint here (warning – contains spelling and grammatical errors): https://thecourtroominsider.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/reid_fedsuit.pdf

At the very least, it will be interesting to see if anything comes of this. I was at the hearing in July, 2009 where Judge Braud ordered jail officials to allow him an hour a day in the law library. Jail officials seemed to indicate that should not be a problem. Another interesting aspect is that neither Mr. Reid nor his attorneys said anything in any of the hearings leading up to the trial. Nor did they say anything during the trial itself. Rock Island County Sheriff’s Lt. William Kauzlarich told me he thinks it’s “sour grapes” and that he finds it hard to believe a correctional officer would not obey a judge’s order.

Adding to the mystery is another federal lawsuit, also filed in U.S. District Court in Rock Island. This one was file last month by Rock Island County Jail inmate named Samuel R. Scott. Mr. Scott, who, at least according to court records, is in jail on a charge of possession of a controlled substance. Mr. Scott’s suit also claims corrections officers – the same two named in Mr. Reid’s suit, in fact – did not let him use the law library.

So that’ s where we are. No court dates have been set for either federal suit, so I can’t say when I’ll know any more. But I’ll keep an eye on it.

It’s not over

I know I’m a couple weeks late with a post about this, but since Elijah Reid’s trial ended, I’ve been fairly busy. So I’m sorry this is so late, but I figure it’s worth talking about here.

As you’ve hopefully read, Elijah Reid changed his mind. On Jan. 21, Mr. Reid filed a motion in Rock Island County Circuit Court to change his sentencing agreement.

For those just tuning in, I’ll recap. Mr. Reid was convicted on Jan. 15 of killing Ryan Ferry and Jermaine Robinson. The pair was found in Mr. Ferry’s car in Rock Island on April 11, 2008. Both had been shot in the head. Though prosecutors were going to seek the death penalty against him, he agreed to a sentence of life in prison and to give up all his appeal rights. Prosecutors agreed to the sentence and that was the end.

Or so we thought.

“I did not know what I was doing at the time because I had a lot of family members telling me what to do and I was not in my right state of mind,” Mr. Reid said in the handwritten motion. “I want a chance to fight for my life because I did not do this crime.”

Here’s the problem. The motion says he wants to withdraw his “plea agreement.” But as his lawyer, Stephen Richards, pointed out to me when I called him that day, Elijah Reid did not make a plea agreement. He made a sentencing agreement and gave up his right to appeal. And Mr. Richards was as unsure as I was as to where things would go next.

My guess is that Mr. Richards has a better idea by now. But I don’t. All I know is that there’s a hearing on the motion Feb. 9. It will be interesting to see what happens. It appears that this motion took at least Mr. Richards by surprise and I know I was certainly surprised by it.

I guess all we can do now is wait for the hearing, so stay tuned. I’ll hopefully have an update before the hearing. But even if I don’t, I’ll definitely have one after.

I’m also hoping to retool this blog a bit. After all, the trial is over, but there’s a lot of great courtroom drama going on in Rock Island County and I’m hoping my editors let me keep using this space to talk about it all.

Family input

Well, folks, by now you’ve heard, I’m sure, that Jeff Terronez agreed to not seek the death penalty in exchange for Elijah Reid forfeiting all his appeal rights and spending his life in prison. If not, feel free to check out this story.

If you click that link, make sure you check out the comments. A commenter who goes by Stateville1991 says this: “Maybe…Terronez wants to ‘play nice’…since the FBI is still ‘snooping’ around the various county offices. Terronez doesn’t realize that…he has it ‘backwards’ as far as the death penalty goes! More punishment for this crime, not less…despite what the victim’s families want!”

Now, Stateville 1991 raises an interesting point. Mr. Terronez took the death penalty off the table after family members of Jermaine Robinson and Ryan Ferry agreed to it. But Stateville seems to be suggesting that Mr. Terronez should have ignored the wishes of the family and sought the death penalty anyway.

My question is this: Do you agree? Should Mr. Terronez have sought death against Elijah Reid even though the families of the victims said they would be ok with life in prison for him?

Something to consider: At the bottom of the story I wrote, you’ll find a quote from Janea Robinson – Jermaine’s little sister. In it, she says she was very excited about the death penalty at first. But she adds that the important thing is the guilty verdict, regardless of what actually happens to Mr. Reid.

Another question Stateville1991 raises: How much input should victims’ families be allowed to have in decisions like this? Should it be totally at the discretion of the prosecutor? Granted, legally, it IS totally up to Mr. Terronez to make the decision to seek the death penalty or not. But how much weight SHOULD a prosecutor give to the wishes of the victims’ families?

As per usual, post your responses in the comments section. And I’m asking you all this: PLEASE keep it civil. No personal attacks. No insults. Argue vehemently and passionately, but stick to the facts and the issues. Don’t turn it into a lot of name-calling. Thanks.

Another question

I’ve got to say, I’m incredibly happy with all the comments I’ve gotten here on this blog. For the most part they’ve been civil and polite and all have been very intelligent. So thanks, everyone.

A commenter with the handle Smarterthantheaveragebear has said a couple interesting things about this post. I’d suggest checking them out. He’s not the only one who has posted good stuff over there, either.

But Smarter brings up a good question: How many of you folks reading have ever been on a jury? What sorts of cases were they? What were the verdicts? What were the ultimate sentences? What were deliberations like?

Post your stories as comments. I look forward to reading them all.

For the record, I’ve never been on a jury. I’ve been summoned for jury duty twice in Chicago, but both times, I was away at college and couldn’t serve. So I’m very curious about what it’s like.

A question to ponder

A commenter, who goes by Mortimer, said some interesting things in one of his comments on this post. I decided to share it here because it’s something I think is worth discussing publicly.

He writes: “So it comes down to a cigarette butt? In a car he’d been in several times before? This is why I have such a big problem with the death penalty. It should only be used when someone is guilty beyond ANY doubt, but in practice it requires only beyond reasonable doubt.”

Well, first off, I want to say for the record that I don’t agree the verdict in Mr. Reid’s case comes down to a single cigarette butt. I think there’s a lot more to consider than that. But for the purposes of this post, we’ll just agree to disagree.

But more importantly is the distinction he makes between “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” and “guilty beyond ANY doubt.” As he points out, in order to find a person guilty of a crime, the jury or judge must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed said crime. That’s true of all crimes, including murder.

Here’s the question I pose to you all: Should it be a higher standard for death penalty cases? Should a prosecutor be required to eliminate, as Mortimer suggests, ALL doubt of a person’s guilt before finding him/her guilty of a crime for which they could receive the death penalty? Or is the current system (which I go over a bit in this post) effective?

And here’s another question to ponder: Is it even possible to eliminate ALL doubt of a person’s guilt?

What say you, readers?

The state’s case by the numbers

It’s official. At 3:55 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2009, prosecutor Jeff Terronez wrapped up his case against Elijah Reid. Within a few minutes, defense attorneys Stephen Richards and William Schick began their case.

With the state’s case in the bag, I offer you all a handy, bulleted, by-the-numbers look back at the state’s case.

  • Days of testimony: Well, that’s actually kind of a tough question. The first day (Jan. 5) was actually only about 90 minutes. The following day, the trial wrapped at 11:30 a.m. because lawyers had previous engagements to attend. Then days 3 and 4 were full days. So for week one, we got about 2 1/2 full days. With testimony for the state wrapping up at about 4 p.m. Jan. 12, that means there were two full days of testimony during week two. All told, I’d say it’s about 4 1/2 days total.
  • Witnesses called: This one is easier. Jeff Terronez called 31 witnesses.
  • Exhibits presented: Keep in mind that I’m counting each part of a group exhibit (that is, an exhibit with several pieces) as separate exhibits. All told, Mr. Terronez presented 138 exhibits.

There you go, folks. That’s a quick rundown of the state’s case. Stay tuned. The defense began its case Tuesday and could wrap up Wednesday. So be sure to check www.qconline.com for updates. And you’re welcome to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bill_mayeroff. I post a lot of updates there, too.

Week 1 wrap-up

Well, folks, we’ve made it to the end of week 1 of Elijah Reid’s trial. First and foremost, I want to thank everyone for reading and commenting. This blog got huge really quickly and I’m glad you all seem to be enjoying it.

On to business. Week 1 was amazingly busy. Though there were really only about 3 days of testimony, a ton happened. With that in mind, here’s a handy wrap-up of the first week.

Day 1 – Monday, Jan. 4, 2010

What happened: Jury selection begins. 28 potential jurors, split into two groups of 14, were interviewed, as part of a group and individually, by lawyers on both sides and Judge Braud. Six jurors from the first group are seated and the second group yields three.

Evidence: None.

Witnesses: None

Day 2 – Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010

What happened: Though the second day of jury selection was supposed to start at 8:30 a.m., nothing happened until 10:05 a.m. I’m not really sure why. The remaining three jurors and one alternate are picked from the first group of 14 jurors questioned. After lunch, eight more potentials are called and the remaining two alternates are picked. A full jury is finally seated at 3:24 p.m.

Opening arguments began at 4:05 p.m. with a warning from Jeff Terronez.

“What I expect that you’re going to hear is that a number of my witnesses either use or deal drugs,” he said. “These witnesses weren’t necessarily the most cooperative with police in this investigation.”

He was quick to remind jurors they had all said in their interviews that they would give as much weight to the testimony of drug users and dealers as they would to any other witnesses.

The two victims were also involved with drugs, Mr. Terronez told the jury.

“You’re going to hear that Jermaine Robinson and Ryan Ferry went to a location in Rock Island to conduct a drug transaction,” he said.

William Schick, Mr. Reid’s attorney, agreed that some of the state’s witnesses were involved with drugs, but he pained a less-rosy picture of them.

“All the main witnesses the state is going to put on have criminal records to challenge their credibility,” he said. “My client knew nothing about any robbery, any armed robbery.”

One witness took the stand before things wrapped up at about 5:30 p.m.

Who testified: Rock Island police officer Ryan Barnett told jurors he was the first officer to arrive on the scene of the murders. “Basically, I noticed two people in the vehicle – the driver and a front-seat passenger,” he said. “Neither of them appeared to be moving, but they appeared to have their eyes open.”

Evidence: None.

Day 3 – Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010

What happened: Because of “previous engagements,” this was an early day, wrapping up just before 11:30 a.m. That said, enough happened. Jurors heard from another officer who responded to the scene after Officer Barnett. They also heard that two $20 bills, one of which was bloody, were found outside a house near the scene. A resident of the area near the crime scene testified that she called 911 when she discovered Mr. Ferry and Mr. Robinson in the car. Jurors also heard from a woman who lived in the area and said she heard gunshots, as well as a criminalist for the Rock Island Police Department. The criminalist, Mary Devine, did not finish testifying Wednesday.

Who testified:

  • Rock Island police officer Brett Buchen said he found the bloody $20 bill.
  • Latira Lee said she discovered Mr. Robinson and Mr. Ferry in the car and called 911. “I seen the black gentleman’s face real swollen. There was blood running from his nose,” she said, adding that she didn’t see any blood on Mr. Ferry.
  • Leslie Solis said she heard gunshots shortly before the two men were found.
  • Rock Island police criminalist Mary DeVine said she processed the evidence from the scene. She said she also examined the bodies of Mr. Ferry and Mr. Robinson.


  • Seven photographs showing the intersection of 7th St. and 13th Ave., a house at 602 13th Ave and two $20 bills found outside the house.
  • An aerial photograph showing where the murders occurred.
  • Four photos of the black van Latira Lee said came to the scene and that she had seen previously at Century Woods apartment complex.
  • The $20 bills found outside of 602 13th Ave.
  • Photos of Mr. Robinson and Mr. Ferry taken before their deaths.
  • Photos of the inside of the rear of Mr. Ferry’s red Oldsmobile Intrigue. In one of the photos, the bodies of the two men, in the front seat,  are partially visible.

Day 4 – Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010

What happened: It was the first full day of testimony. Jurors heard the rest of the testimony of Mary DeVine, as well as testimony from friends of Mr. Robinson and Mr. Ferry. Dr. Mark Peters, who performed the autopsies, also took the stand.

Who testified:

  • Mary DeVine, criminalist for the Rock Island Police Department, whose testimony began on day 3. She spoke of finding bloody bills in the car where Mr. Robinson and Mr. Ferry were shot.
  • Dr. Mark Peters, forensic pathologist who performed autopsies on Mr. Robinson and Mr. Ferry. He said either of two gunshots could have killed Mr. Robinson and that Mr. Ferry was killed by a shot that transected his brain stem.
  • Rock Island police Detective Sean Roman told jurors he found $160 in $20 bills, some of them blood-stained, when he searched jeans belonging to Mr. Reid. Early on April 16, 2008, police executed a search warrant on an apartment at 1351 3rd St., Rock Island, where Mr. Reid was staying with his girlfriend Teresa Simmons and several children.
  • Kendal Tomlinson, Mr. Ferry’s girlfriend, testified she began to suspect he was using cocaines in the weeks before his death.
  • Kelly Wood, a friend of Mr. Ferry’s, said he smoked marijuana and used crack cocaine with Mr. Ferry. He said he knew Mr. Ferry sold marijuana, but did not think he sold crack or cocaine.
  • Paul Hesse, a friend of Mr. Ferry’s, said he knew Mr. Robinson to be a drug dealer and did not like that Mr. Ferry was hanging around with him.
  • Michael Watson, a friend of Mr. Robinson’s, said he never knew Mr. Robinson sold crack.
  • Brooke Hawkins, a former girlfriend of Mr. Robinson’s, said he carried “ridiculous amounts” of money with him. “I told him, ‘Somebody’s going to try to get that money from you.'”


  • Several photos of the interior and exterior of Mr. Ferry’s Oldsmobile Intrigue.
  • Money recovered from the same car.
  • Clothing, much of it blood-stained, worn by both victims the night they were killed.
  • Bullet fragments recovered from both victims.
  • Body diagrams and photos from the victims’ autopsies.
  • Photos of a Ford Regency van allegedly driven by Mr. Reid the night of the murders.
  • Photos of Mr. Reid’s apartment.
  • Blood-stained bills found in the apartment.
  • A revolver, allegedly used in the murders, recovered from a sewer in August 2009.

Day 5 – Friday, Jan. 8, 2010

What happened: Jurors got their first testimony from someone claiming to have been with Mr. Reid the night of the murders. They also heard from a girlfriend of Mr. Robinson.

Who testified:

  • Jennifer Myrick: The girlfriend of Jermaine Robinson told jurors how her boyfriend was planning to buy 500 grams of cocaine from a man she called “Elijah” for a price of $13,000. She testified that she was worried someone was setting him up to be robbed.
  • Terrell Aaron: Testified that Mr. Reid talked about robbing Mr. Robinson the night of April 11, 2008. He also said that Mr. Reid said bragged about how he “killed them n—–.” But on cross-examination, attorney Stephen Richards pointed out Mr. Aaron’s testimony varied from testimony he gave during a deposition on July 2, 2009.

Evidence: Nothing new was admitted. But jurors got another look at the revolver allegedly used in the murder.

What’s next

Stephen Richards didn’t finish his cross-examination of Terrell Aaron, so that will wrap up at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 11. Also slated to testify are Carter McCray and Jamil Stewart, who were supposedly with Mr. Reid the night of the murders.