by Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet

Excerpt from Appendix A: Catalogue of Defendants

KIDD, ROBERT LEE (white). 1960. California. Kidd was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. In 1961, the state supreme court reversed the conviction.1 The murder weapon was allegedly a sword belonging to the victim, but the prosecution had prevented the defense from informing the jury that shortly after the murder the coroner had told reporters that the suspected sword could not have been the murder weapon. In addition, the jury falsely perceived that a 3-page document produced by a police witness at trial and described as the defendant’s “rap sheet” implied that Kidd had a long series of previous arrests. At retrial, Kidd was acquitted as evidence emerged that the prosecutor had suppressed information that showed the victim was alive several hours after Kidd was alleged to have murdered him. Subsequent investigation revealed that the police had photographic evidence in their files indicating that the murder weapon was a revolver used to beat the victim to death; no evidence connected this weapon to the defendant. In 1974, Kidd filed a $200,000 damage suit against the prosecutor, but this complaint was dismissed.2


1. People v. Kidd, 56 Cal. 2d 759, 366 P.2d 49, 16 Cal. Rptr. 793 (1961).
2. Kidd v. Maurer, No. 74-2000 (D. Cal. filed Sept. 18, 1974).