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Edward L. Hicks

On a spring evening in 1921 in St. Louis, Missouri, Edward L. Hicks was allegedly caught in possession of a package of stolen shirts by Railroad Detective Fitzgerald. According to Detective Fitzgerald, that evening as he was making his rounds, he had come across the stolen shirts, tucked away on a parked freight car. Fitzgerald reported that soon after discovering the stolen shirts, he saw Hicks walk up and remove the hidden shirts.

Hicks, a railway employee, was arrested for possession of stolen goods on this basis. Because the shirts were stolen from an interstate train, the charges against him were federal. His trial was held in May 1921 in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Hicks testified that he knew nothing about the stolen goods, but that he had argued with Fitzgerald in the past and that Fitzgerald had then threatened that he would “get” Hicks. Fitzgerald’s testimony was the only evidence presented against Hicks. The jury believed Fitzgerald and found Hicks guilty. He was sentenced to two years in the Leavenworth Penitentiary.

After Hicks’ conviction, Fitzgerald boasted to attorney Wayne Ely that he had framed Hicks. Ely then contacted the Department of Justice to report Fitzgerald’s statement. The Department of Justice then undertook an investigation of this matter and became convinced of Hicks’s innocence. The trial judge and U.S. Attorney stated that they believed him to be innocent as well. On August 11, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge granted Hicks a full and unconditional pardon on the basis of innocence.

- Meghan Barrett Cousino

State:MO - Federal
Most Serious Crime:Possession of Stolen Property
Reported Crime Date:1921
Sentence:2 years
Race/Ethnicity:Don't Know
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation