Victims of the State

Mingo County, WV

Clyde Beale

May 9, 1926 (Vulcan)

Clyde Beale was convicted of the murder of Mrs. Rissie Perdue. Beale's half-brother Levi Layne operated a store in Vulcan, WV. After Perdue broke the heel of her shoe, she and her husband went to the store to buy a pair of slippers. Liquor was mentioned and a bottle was produced. Later the entire party adjourned to Layne's house where they staged a party during which Perdue disappeared. Her body was found several days later in the Tug River. An autopsy found evidence of violence. Beale said he was at the party before the Perdues arrived and had never seen them before.

In relating how he came to be accused, Beale claimed his half-brother's wife, Minnie Layne, wanted to get rid of her husband and therefore accused both him and her husband of the murder and swore falsely against them at trial. The jury that tried Beale's brother failed to agree and when the case was called a second time, it was thrown out. Beale, however, was convicted and sentenced to death. Following sentencing, Minnie Layne and her children went to the judge and told him they had testified falsely at trial.

The trial judge commuted Beale's sentence to life imprisonment, but the prosecution appealed to the state supreme court which ordered the judge to reschedule Beale's execution. The judge resigned rather than comply. However, in 1929 a new judge followed the orders. Shortly thereafter the governor commuted Beale's sentence to life imprisonment. In 1933, Beale was granted a conditional pardon and released. In 1949, the state governor granted Beale a full pardon.  (PPG) (RE) (NYT) (ISI)  [12/10]

McLean County, IL 

Alan Beaman

Aug 25, 1993 (Normal)

Alan Beaman was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, an ISU student. On Aug. 28, 1993, Lockmiller was found in her Normal apartment strangled by a clock radio cord and stabbed in the chest with a pair of scissors. The state established sexual jealousy as a possible motive for Beaman committing the murder, but given the number of Lockmiller's boyfriends, the motive appeared hardly unique to him. Beyond this possible motive, the state's evidence was essentially non-existent. Even if the evidence, by itself, were sufficient to convict, Beaman's alibi raises some measure of doubt, as does the evidence against an alternative suspect.

An appellate court affirmed Beaman's conviction with one justice dissenting. The dissenting justice found the evidence insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In May 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned Beaman's conviction, ruling that he should have been allowed to introduce evidence of another viable suspect. The state had withheld much of this evidence prior to trial. This suspect, identified as John Doe, was a steroid using, physically abusive boyfriend of Lockmiller to whom she owed money. The suspect had agreed to take a polygraph test but then failed to take it because he would not follow the instructions of the polygraphist. The Court also agreed that Beaman's lawyers never properly investigated and presented evidence about his alibi.  (Appeal) (CWC)  [6/08]

 Australia (WA)

Darryl Beamish

Dec 20, 1959  (Cottesloe)

Darryl Beamish was convicted of the murder of socialite and chocolate heiress Jillian Brewer. He spent 15 years in prison before being released on parole. He was exonerated in 2005 after evidence showed that serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke had committed the crime.  (IPWA) (Beamish v. The Queen)

Montgomery County, AL

Melvin Beamon


After 17 hours of interrogation, during which Montgomery police beat and threatened to shoot him, Melvin Todd Beamon confessed to murder. At trial they gave false testimony against Beamon, as did other witnesses they had threatened. Beamon was convicted, but six weeks later an eyewitness to the crime came forward and exonerated him.  (ISI)  [3/06]

 England (Stafford CC)

Roger Beardmore


Roger Beardmore was convicted in 1998 of pedophile rape after being accused by an 11-year-old girl. At the time of the alleged offense, Beardmore was living at a farmhouse 15 miles from Stoke-on-Trent. The girl told her mother that between the ages of three and six she had been raped and interfered with when visiting Beardmore's farm. Three years later the girl admitted that she made the whole thing up to gain the attention of her mother. She said, “I have put a man in prison for no reason.” The girl now says she never wants to see her mother again. She expressed the wish to right a wrong which had been keeping her awake, crying at night. Following the girl's admission, Beardmore's conviction was quashed and he was released from prison.  (Innocent)  [10/08]

Franklin Beauchamp - See Bronx Five

St. Louis City, MO 

Antonio Beaver

Aug 15, 1996

Antonio Beaver, a black man, was convicted of robbing a 26-year-old white woman in a St. Louis parking lot. The victim initially described her assailant as a 5'10" clean-shaven black man with a David Letterman like gap between his teeth. The assailant stole her purse and also her car, which was recovered the next day in East St. Louis. The victim also noticed that the assailant was bleeding while he was inside her car. A week later, a detective arrested Beaver because he thought Beaver resembled the composite sketch in the case. However, Beaver was 6'2", had a full mustache, and had chipped teeth. Nevertheless, the victim identified him in a four-person lineup.

At trial, Beaver's defense argued that Beaver could not have been the perpetrator since fingerprints collected from the driver's side of the car and from the rearview mirror did not match him. However, Beaver was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison. In 2001, Beaver filed a motion for DNA testing of the blood evidence. It was not until Oct. 2006 that the state agreed to this testing. After test results came back, Beaver was exonerated and he was released in March 2007.  (IP)  [7/07]

Ashtabula County, OH

Gary Beeman

Nov 16, 1975

Gary Beeman was sentenced to death for a murder committed during a robbery. Clair Liuzzo, a prison escapee, testified he saw Beeman with the victim at about the time the coroner estimated the murder occurred and again a little later with blood on his clothes. Liuzzo also claimed Beeman had admitted the crime. The conviction was reversed because the trial judge had prevented Beeman from calling an exculpatory witness. At the retrial in 1979, Beeman was acquitted after five witnesses testified that Liuzzo had confessed to the crime.  (CWC)


Adolph Beck


Adolph Beck was convicted in 1896 of individually defrauding ten women out their jewelry, mostly rings, using the same confidence scheme. The swindler had posed as the Earl of Wilton and claimed to have a home in St. John's Wood. Beck was identified by all ten women. In addition he was identified as John Smith, a man who had been convicted of perpetrating a identical confidence scheme in 1877. At trial Beck's defence wanted to cross-examine the crown's handwriting expert to established that documents submitted into evidence as having been in Beck's handwriting were actually in the same hand as those attributed to Smith in 1877. In addition it wanted to present testimony that Beck had been in South America in 1877 and for several years thereafter. However, the judge prohibited this defence. Legal rules prohibited the crown from mentioning a prior conviction, so the judge apparently felt the defence should be prohibited as well.

Evidence later surfaced that Smith had been examined by a prison doctor in 1879, who stated in his report that Smith had undergone circumcision. Beck was examined and found to be uncircumcised. The only effect of this new evidence was that Beck, who had been assigned Smith's old prison number, was given a new prison number. Beck was released from prison in 1901.

In 1904, Beck was again arrested for defrauding women using the same confidence scheme. He was again convicted, but his sentencing was deferred until further investigation could be made. During this period, while stories of defrauded women were in the newspapers, a pawnshop owner called police about a man pawning rings in his shop. The man said his name was William Thomas and that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. However, he was identified by several swindled women who also identified rings in his possession as their property. Following Thomas's conviction, he admitted that he was John Smith and that he was responsible for the frauds for which Beck had twice been convicted. Beck was soon pardoned and Parliament awarded him £5,000 for his wrongful imprisonment.  (CTI)  [6/08]

Columbus County, NC 

Johnnie Beck

Nov 24, 1995

Johnnie Beck, 18, used a hunting rifle to shoot twice into the chest of Jeffery Watts, 19, in the parking lot of a Whiteville Burger King. Watts had just stabbed Johnnie's twin, Ronnie Beck, three times in the chest and once in the arm, just before turning on Johnnie and slicing off his left thumb. Johnnie was charged with second-degree murder as the state argued that the second shot was premeditated murder, even though it was fired only one to two seconds after the first. Watts happened to be a relative of state senator R.C. Soles. There was a last minute change of judges before trial and the trial was marked by jury tampering. The defense argued self-defense, but Beck was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to a minimum of 10 years imprisonment.

Beck was released in June 2006 after the charge was reduced to manslaughter and he was released with time served. Beck's father spent half-a-million dollars on lawyers and investigators before successfully having his son's murder conviction set-aside.  (Blue Line Radio)  [3/07]

Kings County, NY

Derrick Bell

July 16, 1996

Derrick Bell was convicted of the robbery and shooting of Brentonol Moriah. Moriah, who suffered enormous blood loss from a single shot to the thigh, spent the next 11 days under heavy sedation and in a near-comatose state. Moriah knew Bell from having lived in the same rooming house with him for more than a year. Nevertheless, at the scene of the crime, he did not name Bell, but instead described the perpetrator as a black male who wore a lemon-colored shirt. Twelve days after the shooting, Moriah identified Bell. The identification was the only evidence used to convict Bell.

Following his conviction, Bell submitted an affidavit from a neuropsychologist, who stated that Moriah's testimony contained “unequivocal evidence that he suffered from retrograde amnesia for the events predating the loss of consciousness,” that the amnesia was made worse by the medications he likely received, and that it was unlikely that he had regained full consciousness when he first named Bell. Even a month after the shooting, Moriah was unable to recall his description of his assailant that he had given at the crime scene.

In 2007, the federal Second Circuit Court overturned Bell's conviction. It ruled that Bell's defense lawyer was ineffective because he failed to inquire into the effects of blood loss and heavy sedation on the memory of the victim.  (  [10/07]

Milwaukee County, WI 

Laurie Bembenek

May 28, 1981

Lawrencia Bembenek, also known as Bambi, was convicted of murdering Christine Schultz, her husband's ex-wife. Bambi's husband Fred Schultz was a police officer as was his ex-wife. Bambi had become a police officer and was stunned by the amount of graft going on in the department: officers selling pornography from their cars, accepting oral sex from hookers, frequenting drug hangouts, and harassing minorities.
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New York County, NY

Ameer Ben Ali

Apr 24, 1891 (East Side)

Ameer Ben Ali, an Algerian sailor, was convicted of the murder of Carrie Brown, a 60-year-old prostitute. Brown had been killed in a hotel room across from Ali's room. The murder initially prompted speculation that Jack the Ripper had arrived in New York. Ali was pardoned and released eleven years later based on the identification of an alternative suspect and an affidavit from a prominent journalist stating that the police had planted a trail of blood linking Ali to the crime.  (CWC) (CTI)

Camden County, NJ 

Louis Benevente


Louis Benevente was convicted of robbing John Dougherty, a collector for a baking company, of $192. The conviction was solely due to Dougherty's testimony. Benevente was paroled after serving 5 years. After the statute of limitation for perjury expired, Dougherty admitted in 1931 that he had falsely accused Benevente to cover up $90 in company money that he had lost playing dice. Benevente, who had changed his name to Bennett, was awarded $5,000 in compensation by the NJ legislature in 1939.  (NY Times) (Not Guilty)  [7/05]

Pierce County, WA 

Gary Benn

Feb 10, 1988 (Puyallup)

Gary Michael Benn was sentenced to death for the shooting murders of his half-brother, Jack Dethlefsen, and his half-brother's friend, Michael Nelson. The shootings occurred in Dethlefsen's house. At trial Benn did not testify directly, but he made statements to a third party who testified to his version of events. According to this version, the killings were in self-defense. Benn's version was reasonably corroborated by the position of the bodies relative to the guns in the house. The killings were presumably not premeditated as Benn did not use his own gun, but had left it in his car. Dethlefsen had a reputation for violence.
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Stark County, OH

Christopher Bennett

May 29, 2001

Christopher Bennett was charged with vehicular homicide after the van he was in crashed and killed a fellow occupant, Ronald Young, 42. The crash occurred on Baywood Street in Paris Township. Neither Bennett nor Young were wearing a seat belt before the crash. Bennett pleaded guilty to the charge after a witness report and the state crash expert, Trooper Toby Wagner, indicated that he was the driver. After Bennett's amnesia cleared in prison, he realized that he was the passenger. Bennett requested that the blood from the van be tested and such tests appear to exonerate him. The van had a driver's side airbag and Young's injuries were consistent with hitting the airbag. Bennett's injuries were consistent with hitting the windshield. Another witness has come forward who said Young was the driver. Bennett's conviction was overturned in 2006, and he faces a possible retrial.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [9/06]

Washington County, OK

Louis Bennett

May 1957

Following the murder of 70-year-old Barltlesville resident Fred F. Ernest, police informed Louis William Bennett that they found his fingerprints on a doorstop that they believed was used to kill the victim. At police insistance Bennett confessed to the crime. He had been drinking for several days, had no recollection of events, and assumed that he was guilty. It wasn't until later that he recalled he had painted the doorstop for the victim, with whom he had been friendly. Though he realized he was innocent of the crime, he pled guilty to it and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He said he was afraid that he would get the death penalty if convicted at trial. Three years later, after a Texas prisoner, Leonard McClain, gave a verified confession to the crime, the Oklahoma governor pardoned Bennett.  (ISI) (The Innocents) (News Article)  [10/05]

 Cook County, IL

Melvin Bentley

Aug 5, 1990 (Ford Heights)

Melvin Bentley was convicted of murdering Leonard Jamison. The murder occurred across the street from the Ford Heights police station in the parking lot of a tavern that functioned as an open-air drug market. Two witnesses who had testified against Bentley later stated that they had been told to falsely implicate Bentley by the lead investigator, who had since been convicted of bribery and sent to federal prison. The state released Bentley in 2000 in exchange for his agreement not to seek a new trial.  (CWC) (Archives)  [7/05]

 England (Luton CC)

Nico Bento

Dec 13, 2005 (Bedford)

Amilton Nicolas Bento (aka Nico), a Portuguese immigrant, was convicted of the murder of his 26-year-old Polish girlfriend, Kamila Garsztka. The alleged crime occurred in Bedford, England in or near the River Great Ouse. A CCTV security camera caught Garsztka walking alone on the embankment of the river toward Priory Lake which adjoined the river. Garsztka's coat, scarf, and shoes were found by the river bank about an hour later. Bento reported Garsztka missing and pestered police to step up their search for her and keep him informed. He told police Garsztka had left her handbag in his apartment, which police later retrieved. Seven weeks after she went missing, canoeists found her body floating in Priory Lake.
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Mecklenburg County, NC 

John Wesley Benton

Jan 31, 1942 (Charlotte)

On January 31, 1942, Blanche N. Jennings, a married white woman in Charlotte, NC, accused John Wesley Benton, a 33-year-old black man, of raping her. In an agreement precluding a death sentence, Benton pled no contest to a reduced charge of assault with intent to commit rape. He was sentenced to 15 years at hard labor. In 1943, Governor Broughton granted Benton a full pardon. The basis of the pardon is unknown because neither Benton's pardon application nor the pardon itself exists in state archives, and there were no contemporary accounts in the local press. In 1947, North Carolina Council of State awarded Benton $715.30 for the seven months he spent behind bars. Benton lived in Charlotte until his death in 1984.  (CWC)  [4/09]

San Francisco County, CA

Berdue & Wildred

Feb 19, 1851

Thomas Berdue and Joseph Wildred were convicted of robbery. The victim, Charles Jansen, was the proprietor of a wholesale dry goods establishment on Montgomery Street. Jansen was struck on the head with a bar of iron and robbed by two men of several thousand dollars in coin and gold dust. Police recognized from Jansen's description that one of the robbers was James Stuart, the leader of a feared band of escaped Australian convicts. Stuart was also wanted for the murder of a sheriff in Yuba County.
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 Cook County, IL

Beringer Brothers

July 16, 1981

After Joanne Barkauskas was gunned down on her way to work, an eyewitness, Harvey Webb, identified the murderer as James Galason. The murder occurred near 42nd and Artesian in Chicago. Galason confessed and testified that the victim's husband, Edward Barkauskas, had contracted with him to commit the crime for a share of her life insurance proceeds. In exchange for leniency, however, Galason agreed to implicate the Beringer brothers in the crime. Galason claimed that Joseph Beringer had been the actual shooter, and that Kenneth Beringer had helped steal a car used in the crime and had been present when the crime was carried out.

There was not much of a case against the Beringers as the eyewitness claimed that Galason alone had committed the murder and the victim's husband, who admitted meeting with Galason, testified that he never met either of the Beringers. Nevertheless, the Beringers were convicted. The Illinois Appellate Court overturned Joseph Beringer's conviction in 1987 because of “brazen misconduct” by the prosecutor, Kenneth Wadas, at trial. Five months later, a court overturned Kenneth Beringer's conviction on the same grounds, and the prosecution dropped all charges against the brothers.  (CWC)  [12/05]

New York County, NY

Fernando Bermudez

Aug 4, 1991

Fernando Bermudez was convicted in 1992 of the murder of 16-year-old Raymond Blount. Prior to the murder Blount had punched another teen named Efrain Lopez, allegedly after Lopez looked at him the wrong way. This incident occurred in the Marc Ballroom, a Greenwich Village nightclub on Union Square West. Lopez then approached an acquaintance in the club and told him what had happened. Later, at 3 a.m., outside the club, Lopez and his friends encountered Blount and his friends. As the two groups were getting ready to fight, Lopez's acquaintance asked him point out the puncher. After Lopez pointed to Blount, the acquaintance ran up and fired a bullet into him, severing an artery. Blount died in a hospital later that morning.
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 Cook County, IL

Mary Berner

1928 (Cicero)

Mary Berner was convicted of forgery. Eight bank and department store employees identified Berner as the woman who had cashed bad checks at their facilities. After the actual forger was arrested and confessed, the same people who had identified Berner identified this woman as the forger.  (CTI)  [7/05]

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]

Fayette County, AL

Berry Innocents

Sept 27, 1933 (Berry)

Glenn Davis, Bill Hathaway, and Herschel McCarn were convicted of robbing the Bank of Berry of $5237.75. The convictions were due to the three men's remarkable resemblance to the actual robbers. All three were pardoned in 1940.  (NY Times)  [7/05]

Essex County, NJ 

Berryman & Bunch

Mar 1983

Earl Berryman and Michael Bunch were convicted of a 1983 rape. Bunch later died of illness in prison. U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise expressed “very serious doubt” that Berryman was involved in the crime. A Centurion Ministries investigation showed that the lead police investigator in the case also had grave doubts about the victim's identification of Berryman.

The victim initially identified Berryman and Bunch from a mug book labeled “B,” which contained photographs of all individuals with names beginning with that letter. The victim had earlier reviewed the “A” book and was told by police that, unless she could identify the suspects quickly, she would have to look through mug books for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet, each containing more than 150 pictures. The record also shows that she gave vastly different physical descriptions of her assailants on three separate occasions, all of which varied substantially from Berryman's and Bunch's actual physical features.  (NACDL) (CM)  [7/05]

 New London County, CT

Delphine Bertrand

Dec 24, 1943 (Old Lyme)

Delphine Bertrand and three men visited James Streeto on the night of his murder. Bertrand and one of the men then went to have sex in another part of the house. While they were gone, the two remaining men killed Streeto. Bertrand pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April 1944 because she preferred being branded a killer than to having her sex life revealed during trial. In 1946, after the two actual killers confessed, the indictment against Bertrand was dismissed.  (FJDB) (ISI) (DH)  [12/07]