Suspect Convictions

Friday evenings at 7:30 (January and February 2017)

Jennifer Anne Lewis lived in Rock Island, Illinois. She was murdered on September 17, 1990 — just days before her tenth birthday.
Credit Courtesy of Sheri McCormick

 

Stanley Liggins has been twice convicted of murdering Jennifer Lewis. Both convictions were overturned, and he's scheduled to go before the court again in 2017.
Credit WQAD

WVIK and journalist Scott Reeder team up to produce a new podcast, "Suspect Convictions," exploring the ongoing prosecution of Stanley Liggins. Liggins has been twice convicted for the 1990 murder of 9-year-old Jennifer Lewis. Both convictions have since been overturned, with Stanley Liggins set to go before the court for a third time in 2017.

Scott Reeder was among the journalists on site the night the body was discovered as the overnight reporter for the Quad-City Times. He has followed the case since that day, conducting interviews and collecting documents.

“There's a tendency in the media to treat certain lives differently than other lives,” explains Reeder. “You think about Elizabeth Smart, the girl in Utah who disappeared. You think about Jon Benet Ramsey, the girl in Colorado who was murdered. You think about a lot of these cases that stick out in your mind and what makes them unusual, or what makes them newsworthy, is these were children from wealthy families. And this little girl was not. She grew up in very tragic circumstances. I think her life counts. I think it matters. I think it's important that this case be looked at carefully.”

The information Scott has collected over the years sheds light on the household Jennifer Lewis was living in, the life of Stanley Liggins, the political pressures and cultural environment surrounding the case, and reasons the two convictions have been overturned. Suspect Convictions also expects to cover the story as motion hearings begin on February 20, 2017, for the retrial scheduled for May.

WVIK  airs the episodes Friday evenings at 7:30. The podcast is available on iTunes, WVIK.org, and at SuspectConvictions.com. Scott Reeder is also working on a book about the case due to be released in the fall of 2017.

There are a lot of reasons why a verdict in the Stanley Liggins case is far from guaranteed in favor of either the prosecution or defense.

Lt. Don Schaeffer addresses the media on September 18, 1990, the day after Jennifer Lewis was murdered.
Todd Mizener / Dispatch and Rock Island Argus

What role does the media play in a high-profile case like the one against Stanley Liggins? That is the question this episode tackles.

On this episode, we're joined by a panel of producers and contributors of other podcasts to share their impressions of the case against Stanley Liggins:

The truth is we'll never know exactly what happened the night of September 17, 1990 when the body of Jennifer Lewis was found near Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport, Iowa.

In this episode, we look at how uncertainties surrounding the Stanley Liggins case might be addressed as the case progresses in 2017.

During the trial, the prosecution displayed a portion of Stanley Liggins' car in the courtroom.
Quad-City Times File Photo / Used With Permission

Stanley Liggins has been twice convicted for the murder of Jennifer Lewis, but both convictions have been overturned. This episode explains the details of the first two trials against Liggins, from 1993 and 1995. Jurors from the two trials discuss the evidence that convinced them of Liggins' guilt.

Stanley Liggins was born into a poor home near Holly Springs, Mississippi, during the Jim Crow era.

He was one of eight children born to a single mother. The family lived in a cabin without electricity or running water.

Liggins was arrested at the age of 19 for armed robbery. He served seven and a half years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi, where he racked up citations for a slew of offenses.

Upon his release, he moved to the Quad Cities. Courtroom testimony reveals he sold cocaine in the community. 

WQAD

Police arrested and charged Stanley Liggins with Jennifer Lewis' murder about a week after her body was found in Davenport.

Former Scott County Prosecutor Bill Davis and Liggins' former attorneys Gary McKenrick and Mike Tobey discuss the evidence that pointed toward and away from Liggins.

Sheri McCormick

Jennifer Lewis was born in 1980 to mother Sheri McCormick and father Bobby Lewis. Her parents separated shortly after she was born, and then Jennifer lived with her mother.

Jennifer's mother, friends and teachers remember her as a tomboy who used her imagination to play. She loved her "pet rock," My Little Pony and younger brothers.

But she did grow up under some tough circumstances — her family didn't have much money and they moved around a lot. 

WQAD

Back in 1990, Scott Reeder was the night police reporter for the Quad-City Times. One night, he was told to cover a fire reported near Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport, Iowa. 

He arrived on the scene around the same time as the police and fire departments. None of them had expected to find the body of a nine-year-old girl from Rock Island, Illinois.