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Convicted of first-degree robbery in 1928, Louis Klass, also known as Udka Klashtorni, was released three years later after the true robber confessed. Following this confession, the two eyewitnesses against Klass admitted they were mistaken and supported his pardon.
Four men robbed the First National Bank in Spring Valley, Minnesota, of $15,000 on May 7, 1928. Two witnesses, the president and vice president of the bank, were shown police photographs and identified Louis Klass as one of the robbers. Although Klass denied any involvement in the robbery, he was arrested and brought to trial in Fillmore County, Minnesota on June 7, 1928.
At trial, Klass presented a solid alibi. He was in the Twin Cities when the robbery occurred and therefore could not have participated. Twelve witnesses confirmed his alibi. However, the jury found eyewitness testimony given by the bank President and Vice President more believable. Klass was convicted of robbery and sentenced to five to forty years in the Stillwater Penitentiary.
Klass filed a motion for a new trial but was denied, so he appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota. The Supreme Court reversed his conviction and a new trial began on June 10, 1929. Once more, the jury found Klass guilty of robbery. Klass again filed a motion for a new trial, but it was denied, and an appeal was again taken to the Supreme Court.
This time, a retrial was denied. Klass was taken to the penitentiary on September 5, 1930. In the meantime, Frank Devers came forward and confessed to participating in the Spring Valley robbery. Devers stated that Klass was innocent. Upon seeing Devers, both the bank President and Vice President became convinced that it was he, not Louis Klass, who had committed the robbery. The two witnesses admitted that their identification had been mistaken and went before the Minnesota Pardon Board in support of Klass’s application for pardon.
On July 16, 1931, Louis Klass was granted a pardon based on innocence and was immediately released from the penitentiary.
- Researched by Laura Loeck
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.