Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mel Ignatow

The trial

From the beginning, the trial did not go as the prosecution planned. Given the tremendous publicity as well as the widespread ill will toward Ignatow, his attorney successfully petitioned for a change of venue. Such requests are granted when the court feels that publicity or case visibility has made it difficult to empanel an unbiased jury. This was certainly the case in Louisville. Even if one was not convinced of Ignatow's guilt, one couldn't be alive in Louisville in 1990 and remain ignorant of the Mel Ignatow murder trial.

Ernest Jasmine
Ernest Jasmine
The trial was moved northeast to Kenton County, a rural community across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Ernest Jasmin was assigned to prosecute Ignatow on behalf of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A flamboyant advocate, Jasmin was known as the "Preacher for the Prosecution." He also happened to be the first black commonwealth's attorney in Kentucky's history. At the time, Kenton County was 97% white, and the few African Americans that lived in the community kept to themselves.

Beyond the racial issues, the prosecution's case had its difficulties. Shore-Inlow had secretly taped Ignatow discussing the murder, but the sound quality was poor. Defense attorney Charlie Rickets did a masterful job reframing Ignatow's recorded comments. "Site" as in gravesite became a "safe." "That place we dug" became that place we "got." In all aspects of the case, in fact, Charlie Ricketts put forth any number of fantastical wild theories, hoping that just one would be enough to create reasonable doubt. It was a smart strategy. With no confession and no physical evidence, convicting Ignatow was challenging enough, and when Shore-Inlow took the stand the case staggered beneath the weight of her dispassionate callousness.

Shore-Inlow, a stern, unpleasant-looking woman at the best of times, had recently gained a lot of weight. The short skirt she wore to court heightened her physical unattractiveness. The defense highlighted the fact that Shore-Inlow had been given a sweetheart deal: for her testimony against Ignatow, the state had agreed to only charge her with tampering with evidence. This was truly a sweetheart deal as during the course of her interviews with the police Shore-Inlow had confessed to witnessing and photographing the entire terrible evening.

Finally, Shore-Inlow's testimony was by turns unsympathetic and cold. Her clinical description of the crime, as well as her admitted, voluntary participation chilled the courtroom.

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