Jennifer Hall

A new hairstyle helped wrongfully convict Jennifer Hall of arson

In 2001, Jennifer Hall, a 20-year-old respiratory therapist, was charged with setting a fire in the hospital where she worked in Harrisonville, Missouri. At her trial later that year, the prosecutor speculated that she might have wanted to become the center of attention by heroically putting out the fire. The evidence supporting that theory was that she had appeared at work the day of the fire with a new hairstyle—curly rather than straight, as she usually wore her hair. A Cass County jury found her guilty of arson, and she was sentenced to three years in prison. In 2004, the trial judge set aside the verdict based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Her lawyer had failed to investigate evidence definitively showing that the fire had resulted from an electrical short. At a retrial in 2005 she was acquitted.