William “Jack” Jackson Marion and his friend, John Cameron, traveled to Gage County, Nebraska, in search of work in 1873. While in Gage County, Marion purchased a team of horses from Cameron, making a small down payment for the purchase. The men then traveled together with the team of horses through Beatrice, Nebraska. After they passed through Beatrice, Marion was seen traveling alone with the horses and Cameron was not seen again.
Shortly thereafter, a body was found in nearby Odell, Nebraska, with three bullet holes in the skull. The body was decomposed, but it was wearing clothing similar to that which Cameron had been wearing when he was last seen. The sheriff was certain that the body was Cameron and that Marion had killed him. It took the sheriff ten years to locate Marion. Once located, Marion was brought back to Beatrice, Nebraska, where he was tried, convicted, and ultimately hanged for this murder on March 25, 1887.
Four years after his hanging, Cameron reappeared, alive and well, in LaCrosse, Kansas. He stated that he had been in Mexico for years, avoiding a woman who claimed to have given birth to his child. He had not heard about Marion’s arrest and conviction until after Marion had been executed.
Marion’s grandson, Elbert Marion, worked determinedly to have Marion posthumously pardoned. In March 1987, 100 years after William Jackson Marion’s hanging, Governor Robert Kerry pardoned him.
- Meghan Barrett Cousino
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.