On February 14, 1991, Wesley Crandall Jr., a local drug dealer, was murdered in Newcastle, Indiana. Shortly thereafter police arrested Ralph Jacobs Jr.
and Christopher Smith and charged each with murder.
Both men were mildly intellectually disabled. None of the physical evidence in the case implicated either man. Police, however, obtained confessions from both men in which Smith said he had committed the murder and that Jacobs had aided him.
The police then convinced the defendants to plead guilty, which they did later in 1991 in Henry County Circuit Court. Jacobs was sentenced to eight years in prison and Smith was sentenced to 38 years in prison.
Eighteen months later, in 1993, the police arrested another man, Jerry Thompson, for the same murder. Unlike Jacobs and Smith, Thompson was implicated by the physical evidence.
Following Thompson’s arrest, Jacobs and Smith were released and charges against them were dismissed by the trial court, while Thompson was convicted of murder.
Jacobs and Smith both filed suit against the City of Newcastle, Henry County, and the State of Indiana, alleging that the police wrongfully coerced their confessions. Jacobs received a settlement of $435,000 and Smith received a settlement of $605,000.
— Michael S. Perry