On August 4, 1931, W.E. Hays, Post Master in Franks, Oklahoma, was assaulted and robbed of $28.72. The money was the property of the Post Office Department of the United States. Hays, who was badly beaten on his face and head, stated he was assaulted by two men and identified one of them as William Awbrey. He failed to identify Emmett Poe, but Poe’s knife was found at the crime scene and another witness testified that Poe had previously asked him to commit the robbery with him.
Awbrey was arrested by the sheriff of Pontotoc County in Ada, Oklahoma on August 6. At the direction of C.E. Zurmehly, Post Office Inspector, he was turned over to the United States Commissioner in Ada for violation of the United States Postal Law and Regulations of 1924. Poe was later arrested.
On October 15, Awbrey and Poe were found guilty of conspiring to enter and rob a post office, fined $1.00, and sentenced to three years in the United States Penitentiary of Leavenworth, Kansas.
On August 19, 1932, Awbrey filed an application for an unconditional pardon with the Department of Justice, accompanied by an affidavit from co-defendant Poe naming another man, Lawrence Stringfellow, as his accomplice and stating that Awbrey had no involvement in the crime. Other affidavits from the family of Awbrey’s brother were filed, describing his activities on August 4 and providing him with an alibi. Stringfellow was indicted and pled guilty in September of 1932.
Based on the evidence of Awbrey’s innocence, President Herbert Hoover signed the unconditional pardon on November 16, 1932 and Awbrey was released from prison on the following day. He had served 460 days in custody for a crime he did not commit.
- Michael Shevlin
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.