Victims of the State

8 Cases

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases


County:   Chisago   Fillmore   Hennepin   Ramsey   St. Louis




Date of Alleged Crime


Chisago County, MN Thorvik & Hughes July 23, 1921
Louis Thorvik and George Hughes were convicted of robbing the Farmers State Bank in Almelund, MN.  The convictions were based on mistaken eyewitness identification and on blatant perjury committed by Deputy Sheriff H. L. Hammerstrom.  In 1925, James Laughlin, the getaway driver for the real robbers was tried and convicted of the robbery.  On the night of his sentencing he told authorities that Thorvik and Hughes had nothing to do with the robbery.  Laughlin gave a sworn statement, detailing the particulars of the crime and naming his four accomplices.  Laughlin's account was later fully corroborated and in 1931, both Thorvik and Hughes were pardoned.  (CTI)  [12/07]


Fillmore County, MN Louis Klass May 7, 1928
Louis Klass, also known as Klashtorni was convicted of robbing the First National Bank of Spring Valley.  The crime occurred on May 7, 1928.  The president and vice-president of the bank viewed police photos and identified Klass as one of the robbers.  Later, after another man confessed to the crime, they realized they were mistaken.  Klass was cleared in 1931. [10/05]


Hennepin County, MN Charles Bernstein 1919 (Hopkins)

Charles Bernstein (aka Charles Harris and Charles Blum) was convicted of robbing a bank in 1919.  Two witnesses identified him as the robber after being shown a picture of him as a teenager - not as an adult.  Two other witnesses said he was not the robber and two hotel detectives and the hotel clerk testified he was miles away in a St. Paul hotel lobby at the time of the robbery.  In 1928, a prosecutor became convinced of Bernstein's innocence and his conviction was overturned.

Five years later he was again mistaken as the perpetrator of a major crime.  He was convicted of the April 21, 1932 murder of gambler Milton White Henry in Washington, DC.  Bernstein was sentenced to death, even though six witnesses testified he was in New York at the time of the murder.  In May 1935, he was minutes away from being executed when President Roosevelt commuted his sentence to life in prison.  In June 1940, the President commuted his sentence to time served, and in April 1945, President Truman pardoned him.  Bernstein spent a total of 17 years imprisoned for the two crimes he did not commit.  (ISI)  [10/05]


Hennepin County, MN George B. Slyter Mar 18, 1931 (Minneapolis)

George B. Slyter was convicted of robbery due to eyewitness identification.  During the early morning hours of Mar. 18, 1931 two intruders entered the garage of Nelson Brothers at 500 S. 11th St. South in Minneapolis, and at gunpoint forced the night man, Aaron Oxendale, open the cash register.  The robbery netted about $50.

Several days later, Oxendale saw a man who he thought was one of the assailants pass the garage.  He called police, who watched for the man's return.  Slyter was arrested after he again passed the garage.  Oxendale identified him with certainty.  Slyter said he had been at a St. Patrick's Day party with his mother and sister.  His sister and another guest gave different versions of the party and of the personnel present, though they said Slyter was there.  The jury deliberated on the verdict for several hours before convicting him.  Because Slyter had a previous conviction for attempted robbery, he was scheduled to be sentenced to 10 to 80 years in prison for the $50 robbery.  But sentencing was deferred for four days.

On the day of sentencing, the state asked that Slyter's conviction be stricken from the record and that he be freed due to new developments in the case.  The night previous, Oxendale and one of the Nelson brothers had been in the garage when it was again robbed by the same assailant that Oxendale had identified as Slyter.  The judge granted the state's motion and Slyter was freed.  (CTI)  [1/09]


Hennepin County, MN Leonard Hankins Dec 16, 1932 (Minneapolis)

Leonard Hankins was convicted in 1933 of participating in the murders of three people in the course of a bank robbery.  The robbery occurred at the Third Northwestern Bank in Minneapolis.  Two police officers, Ira L. Evans and Leo Gorski, were killed when they responded to the robbery.  A passerby was also killed.  Following the robbery, Hankins walked into a rooming house where one of the robbers had been seized.  Several witnesses said Hankins resembled the lookout man, although one witness denied Hankins was the lookout man.  Hankins claimed he was getting a haircut at the time of the robbery.  A barber corroborated that claim.

The FBI later captured one the bank robbers, Jess Doyle, who said Hankins had nothing to do with the robbery. Other members of the gang also said Hankins had nothing to do with the robbery.  In 1935, the FBI advised the Minneapolis police of Hankins' innocence, but the local authorities refused to release him because the FBI would not give them its file on Doyle.  Hankins spent another 15 years in prison before being pardoned in 1951.  In 1954, the state legislature awarded Hankins $300/month for life for his wrongful imprisonment.  [11/07]


Hennepin County, MN Edward & Karri LaBois 1984 (Minnetonka)
Edward and Karri LaBois operated a child day care in their home and were accused in 1984 of abusing their four-year-old daughter.  After learning of the accusation, they fled the state with their daughter.  In 2003, an informant tipped off police that the couple was living in a Salt Lake City suburb.  The couple was arrested on Nov. 10, 2003.  As a four-year-old, the daughter testified on videotape that she was abused after being asked leading questions.  However, as a 19-year-old she remembered no such abuse.  Parents who sent their children to the LaBois's daycare remember no allegations of abuse by their children.  On Nov. 26, prosecutors dropped charges.  Allegations of child abuse were a fad in 1984, but were no longer so in 2003.  (AP News)  [12/05]


Ramsey County, MN David Brian Sutherlin Mar 2, 1985
David Brian Sutherlin was convicted of rape after the victim said he resembled her assailant at trial.  In 2002, prosecution initiated DNA tests exonerated him and implicated another man.  The other man could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations.  Sutherlin is the only known person exonerated because of prosecution initiated DNA testing.  (IP) (Ramsey County)


St. Louis County, MN Roger Sipe Caldwell June 27, 1977
Roger Sipe Caldwell was convicted of murdering Elisabeth Congdon, an elderly Duluth heiress, and her nurse, Velma Pietila.  Caldwell had married Marjorie Congdon LeRoy, the adopted daughter of the victim, in 1976.  Marjorie received $22,000 per year from trust funds established by the Congdon family, and stood to inherit and estimated $8,200,000 when her mother died. Caldwell was convicted because his fingerprints allegedly matched prints left behind by the perpetrator.  A year later when his alleged co-conspirator, Marjorie, went to trial, three expert witnesses for the defense testified that Caldwell's prints did not match.  Marjorie was acquitted.  Caldwell's conviction was later reversed on appeal.  Rather than face another trial, Caldwell entered a time-served plea and was released.  (State v. Caldwell) (More Than Zero)  [10/07]