Darrell Biddings was tried and convicted of kidnapping after six eyewitnesses—including two victims—identified him as the perpetrator in a robbery and kidnapping on Chicago’s south side. Biddings was released eight months later after another man, Larry Edwards, confessed to the crime.
On February 7, 1975, a man dining at Queen of the Sea Restaurant brandished a firearm and, with patrons looking on, robbed the establishment. He then fired randomly into the crowded dining room, wounding three. While fleeing the scene, the perpetrator commandeered a passing vehicle, taking the driver and his 18-year-old son hostage. Forcing the driver to the highway, the gunman and hostages crossed the state line into Indiana where, in Gary, the captives were forced from the vehicle, shot, and left on the side of the road.
Police questioned eyewitnesses at the restaurant, using mug shots to aid the witnesses in the identification of their assailant. Six of those questioned identified a man in one photo, Darrell Biddings, as the gunman. Biddings was later arrested and charged with the crime, and, on June 10, 1975, on the strength of the eyewitness testimony, was convicted in Federal Court of “kidnapping, transportation of a stolen automobile in interstate commerce, and using a gun.”
FBI Agent Richard Harmon, disturbed by the lack of physical evidence supporting the conviction, continued to work the case after its conclusion. Harmon’s investigation led to two women who were not only present on the day of the robbery, but who also had gone to the restaurant that day with the actual perpetrator, Larry Edwards, and his brother, Oscar Edwards. Both women stated that Larry had told them he was going to commit the offense. Unwilling to be present when this occurred, they left the restaurant. Edwards, who at the time of Harmon’s investigation was serving a life sentence for a separate murder conviction, was responsible for both the shooting in the restaurant and wounding the hostages in Gary, according to the version told by the newly discovered witnesses. Further, his accomplice, who acted as lookout during the robbery, was his brother, Oscar.
Agent Harmon reported his findings to U.S. Attorney Samuel Skinner. Skinner, who prosecuted Biddings originally, promptly appeared before Judge Thomas McMillan and requested that Biddings be released and the indictment dropped. Skinner stated, “I would never have tried Biddings if I had been in possession of this new evidence.” Judge McMillan, unwilling to release Biddings because the majority of the eyewitnesses still believed that he was guilty, granted a new trial. Skinner later told McMillan that he could not, “in good faith re-prosecute Biddings because I believe he is innocent.”
The case was resolved, however, before the need for any further confrontation. Edwards, who was further exposed by fellow inmates as the guilty party, confessed to the crime, and Judge McMillan ordered the release of Darrell Biddings on February 10, 1976.
- Kevin Donahoe
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.