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H.A. Clements

On the night of March 15, 1925, a group of men were gathered at a grocery supply store owned by Elbert Phipps and A.L. English in Currie, Texas, for a game of dominoes. A man, armed with a revolver and wearing a handkerchief tied around his face, entered the store and ordered the men to “stick ‘em up.” He moved toward the cash register, and a second man, similarly wearing a handkerchief tied around his face, entered the store to assist. A third man, also wearing a handkerchief, was with their group, waiting outside as the apparent lookout. The robbers took approximately $200 and left the store.
 
Later that night, English identified the first man to enter the store as H.A. “Cork” Clements (also referenced as H.A. Clemons), who owned a nearby store with his business partner, Earl Shannon. This identification was based on Clements’ physical appearance.
 
The following day, Phipps collected money from the store of Clements and Shannon. One of the bills given to him was a mutilated one-dollar bill that Phipps recognized from the cash register at his own store. Following this discovery, Phipps had Shannon and Clements arrested.
 
Shortly before Shannon’s trial, Phipps told his attorney that English had said that Clements was the only one of the robbers he could identify. The trial judge refused to permit Shannon’s attorney to testify to Phipps’ statement, but Shannon’s conviction was later overturned for that reason and he was never retried.
 
Clements was tried in the Navarro County District Court, found guilty of robbery, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.
 
On February 16, 1927, Clements’ appeal was heard in the Court of Criminal Appeal of Texas. The court affirmed the decision to convict Clements based on the reliability of the evidence presented in the original trial.
 
Shortly thereafter, Clements met a man in the penitentiary named Blackie Davis, who confessed to him that he had committed the robbery. Clements was granted a 60-day furlough to locate and identify Davis’s accomplices, which he did. Davis’s accomplice, Leonard Wassum, admitted his guilt as well. On May 24, 1929, Texas Governor Dan Moody pardoned Clements for the robbery.
 
Decades later, Clements sued the State of Texas for his false imprisonment. In June 1958, a jury awarded $37,700 in damages to 68-year-old Clements. However, the State appealed this decision and in December 1958, the Court of Civil Appeals of Texas reversed the trial court’s decision and dismissed the action, ruling that the trial court had erred in its interpretation of the law.
 
- Christine Prorok
State:TX
County:Navarro
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1925
Convicted:1926
Exonerated:1929
Sentence:5 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID