SOME FAMOUS CASES OF WRONGFUL CONVICTION
Captain Alfred Dreyfus (1894) - the so-called "Dreyfus affair" in which other army officers, motivated
by anti-semitism, manufactured forgeries, fabricated evidence, and used handwriting analysis to wrongfully convict Dreyfus
of selling military secrets to the Germans.
The Scottsboro Boys (1927) - an Alabama case involving nine young black males who were riding a freight train with
two white females, and the women alleged that they had been raped. Community pressure and racism against blacks resulted in
the death penalty for all but the youngest of the boys, but it turned out the girls had only concocted the story to explain
why they were riding the train with blacks.
The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping (1936) - a sensational case in which a German immigrant named Bruno Hauptmann was
convicted and executed because Germans at the time in America were convenient scapegoats.
Isidore Zimmerman (1937) - who was a young hotel doorman wrongfully accused of providing guns that were later used
in the murder of a police detective. Zimmerman came within 2 hours of his execution before the perjury at the trial was exposed.
He won $1 million, but died a broken man 4 months later.
Dr. Sam Sheppard (1954) - the case upon which the TV series and Harrison Ford movie, The Fugitive, is based. Sheppard
was a physician convicted of murdering his wife who claimed that a one-armed intruder did it (he was later exonerated and
became a professional wrestler).
Randall Dale Adams (1976) - a case immortalized in the movie, The Thin Blue Line and the basis for several other
movies, like Kalifornia, which involves a young man from the North traveling south through Texas who is picked up by a killer
and gets wrongfully convicted for the killer's crimes. The innocent man signs a vague "confession" (I can't remember
what happened after .....) and polygraph results intended to clear him are "inconclusive", so conviction results
from pressure for retaliation and animosity against "drifters".
Ivan the Terrible (1987) - Ivan (John) Demjanjuk was the first trial of a Nazi war criminal held in Israel since
the trial of Adolf Eichman (1961). Ivan was picked up as a factory worker in Cleveland and deported from the U.S. as a wanted
concentration camp guard. Photographic (through-the-years) evidence and eyewitness testimony of survivors along the lines
of "That's Ivan, no doubt about it" characterized the trial. Demjanjuk was acquitted only on the narrowest of margins.
Gary Dotson (1989) - an Illinois case involving the first "DNA exoneration". Dotson had already served
10 of 25 years of a wrongful conviction for rape based on a suggestive police photographic array in which, it turns out, was
an entirely fictional description of the rapist by the victim, but Dotson had been in trouble with the law before. First,
the victim recanted out of conscience. Then, the Governor of Illinois refused to grant a pardon and decreed the victim's recantation
false. Dotson and his lawyers then obtained DNA testing which proved to be the crucial exculpatory evidence.
Click here to return to the webquest