Beverly Monroe (Mimi and little Sweetheart, National Gallery) 

Beverly Monroe is the epitome of southern gentility— gracious, warm, and impeccably mannered. With a degree in organic chemistry and three grown children, Beverly is difficult to picture as an inmate. And yet in 1992 she was wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to twenty-two years in prison.

Her story appeared in the very first Voice of Witness book, Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated, published in 2005.

Beverly was the victim of an overzealous state police agent, who was convinced she was responsible for the murder of her long-time partner.

The agent fabricated a confession, and told me, “I can make you out to be the black widow spider of all time.”

He said that all he had to do was pick up the telephone and by that afternoon it would all be in the papers. I’m a single mother with three kids in college. It’s like someone holding a gun to you and saying you have to do it, you have no other way to go…

What do you do? So I signed it.

Despite a lack of evidence, Beverly was convicted of first-degree murder.

I went to the women’s prison…it was a dungeon-like place. It was cold. I was hungry…

Then I was put in this basement. It was an absolute firetrap. A basement with chains on the exit doors, filled with cigarette smoke, and I was on the top bunk. I could reach the ceiling from my bunk. All the smoke collects up there.

In the evenings we had to mop the floor. These women would take my turn so I could work on my case. And they would say—it was noisy as all get-out, unbelievable noise—“Be quiet, Miss Beverly is working on her case.” This will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Today, Beverly continues to advocate for criminal justice reform, working with the Students for Innocence Project at William & Mary Law School and speaking at conferences and events across the country.

Beverly’s story exemplifies the transformative power of a personal story: for the storyteller, for the reader, and—when amplified—for the world.


Find Beverly’s full story in Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated and The Voice of Witness Reader.

Teaching about wrongful conviction? Voice of Witness offers free curriculum to accompany Beverly’s story and others. Visit our lesson plans page to see if it’s a good fit for your classroom.

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