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Convicted of first-degree robbery and first-degree murder in San Diego, California, in February 1974, and sentenced to life in prison, Sergeant Jackson was exonerated ten months after his initial warrantless arrest when the actual culprit implicated himself in the murder.
On November 26, 1973, Robert Hoke was bludgeoned to death in the course of a robbery at a San Diego gas station where he was an attendant. Sergeant Jackson was arrested without a warrant on December 4, 1973, largely on information received from Victor Thomas, a police informant. Thomas told detectives that on the day after the murder, Jackson came to his home and stated that he and Gilbert Andrews had gone out the previous day to a bar next to the gas station, and upon leaving the bar, had gotten into a fight with the gas station attendant, hit him, and robbed the station.
Thomas’ identification of Jackson did not fit with the description of either assailant given by several witnesses at the scene after the incident. Another witness excluded Jackson as the robber from a photographic lineup. However, the victim’s wife erroneously identified a wallet in Jackson’s possession as belonging to her husband.
Fifteen days after his arrest, the grand jury indicted Jackson for the robbery and murder of Hoke. On February 24, 1974, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, and on April 8, 1974, he was sentenced to life in prison. Several months after Jackson’s sentencing, Charles R. Blunt, 18, came forward and implicated himself and his friend, Andrew Donnelly, 19, in the murder of Robert Hoke. Blunt was tried and convicted of robbing and murdering Hoke.
Ed Miller, the San Diego County District Attorney who prosecuted Jackson, admitted that the wrong man had been prosecuted for the slaying of Robert Hoke. Jackson filed a writ of habeas corpus, and on October 29, 1974, Jackson’s conviction was overturned and the charges against him were dismissed.
Jackson sued the City of San Diego for false imprisonment, and a jury awarded him $280,000. The city appealed, and the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, ruled on October 7, 1981 that Jackson was entitled only to damages suffered during the period of warrantless arrest to the date he was rearrested following the grand jury indictment. In its decision, the court ruled that Jackson’s indictment and later jury conviction were all accomplished through lawful process, even though the first step, the arrest, was unlawful. They stated that due to tort reform laws in California, they were unable to compensate Jackson for all the damages he suffered. The City of San Diego later paid Jackson $17,000.
– Researched by Penny Beerntsen
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.