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Sidney Wood

Convicted of first-degree robbery in Los Angeles, California, in 1924, Sidney Wood was pardoned a year and a half later after one of the actual culprits admitted to the crime and implicated his real accomplices.
 
On November 7, 1923, three masked bandits boarded an electric train between Los Angeles and Pasadena. One man remained on the rear platform, a second went to the front of the car, and a third searched passengers after the man in the rear fired three bullets through the ceiling. $35 was taken from John F. Stranzberger during the looting and jewelry was stolen from other passengers. Once finished with the robbery, the bandits forced the motorman to stop the car, jumped off, and ran to an automobile waiting near by with a fourth man at the wheel. After a brief investigation by the Los Angeles police department, suspicion fell upon two brothers. When police visited their home to interview them, they were entertaining Sidney Wood, a British subject. The alibi for the two brothers checked out but Wood's alibi did not, and he was brought to the police station, where he was identified by the motorman and the conductor as the man who had stood on the rear platform and directed the holdup. Robbery charges were subsequently filed against Wood.
 
In January of 1924, Wood was tried before a jury in a California state court. Unable to agree on a verdict, the jury was discharged and a retrial date was set. On March 1, 1924, Wood was retried before a jury in the state court of Judge Walton J. Wood. A new witness, who had been a passenger on the train, came forward and who positively identified Wood as one of the bandits. Several other passengers confirmed the identification, basing it on a similarity in the eyes, the lower part of the forehead, and the upper part of the nose, these features being all that was visible behind the mask worn by the man on the platform. Wood's only defense was an alibi, which was not well supported, and his clean record. Two days later, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Wood's defense counsel, W. J. Laney, told the court that he would make an oral motion at once for a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was not supported by the evidence. The motion was denied, and Wood was sentenced to five years to life in prison. Convinced that his client was innocent, Mr. Laney vowed not to give up on the case.
 
In January of 1925, police were tipped off that the men who had actually committed the Los Angeles train robbery were James Hovermale, Mark Godfrey, Roy Smith, and Russell Smith, and that they were hiding in Idaho. Investigation in Idaho disclosed the whereabouts of Hovermale, Russell Smith, and Godfrey, and the three men were extradited to California. On April 10, 1925, Godfrey made a complete confession to police, in which he said that Hovermale had forced him, under the threat of death, to take part in the robbery. He also implicated Hovermale as the man who stood on the rear platform of the car. The three men in custody were then brought to trial. Godfrey was acquitted because of his youth, his cooperation, and the circumstances of his participation in the robbery. Hovermale and Russell Smith were found guilty and imprisoned.
 
On May 5, 1925, Governor F.W. Richardson pardoned Sidney Wood. Wood was released from prison and given $100 by Governor Richardson.
 
– Researched by Brennan Calinda
State:CA
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1923
Convicted:1924
Exonerated:1925
Sentence:5 years to life
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID