Best Reporter (Newspaper Division)

Jennifer Mann

As the city and county courts reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jennifer Mann's job could be as easy and predictable as just covering the cases on the weekly docket. But that would be a waste of talent for this enterprising gumshoe. In the past twelve months Mann's byline has been atop some of the biggest criminal-justice stories of the year. Take, for instance, her prison interview this past spring with Keith Esters, the man convicted of killing former Saint Louis University volleyball player Megan Boken. Mann all but got Esters to confess to being the gunman in a similar armed robbery for which another man, Cornell McKay, is now serving a twelve-year sentence. "Tell you the truth, I can't say nothing that gonna benefit [McKay] because in the end it's gonna make me look bad," a guileless Esters told Mann. Yet despite that revelation, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce refused to reexamine the case, telling media that McKay's claims of innocence were "baseless and without merit" and that "justice has been achieved." The Circuit Attorney's Office was even more defensive last December when Mann's investigative work (conducted alongside fellow P-D reporter Robert Patrick) exposed how the St. Louis Police Department routinely arrested and jailed the wrong people and then ignored their claims of mistaken identity. The mayor's office and the circuit attorney quickly set about attempting to discredit Mann and her colleague. But the reporters stood by their work, and city hall and the prosecutor's office never produced the evidence they claimed would justify their complaints of shoddy journalism.

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