On the night of December 27, 1954, a used furniture store in Miami County, Ohio, was robbed. During the robbery, the owner of the store, 67-year-old Grover Cleveland Chipley, was shot and killed at approximately 9 p.m.
Several months later, 28-year-old truck driver Edward A. McMullen was arrested for the crime, along with bartender Cecil Maddy. The two men had recently been arrested for stealing a safe from a garage. McMullen was implicated in the murder of Chipley when Cecil Maddy’s wife, Ella Mae Maddy, claimed that McMullen had borrowed her husband’s pistol – a snub-nosed Colt .38 – on the night of the murder and returned with blood all over him. She claimed the gun had then been thrown in a nearby creek. Police searched the creek but came up empty-handed. Ella Mae Maddy had recently filed for divorce from Cecil Maddy.
McMullen’s case went to trial in January 1956. Ella Mae Maddy served as the primary witness against McMullen. In the trial, she testified that McMullen had admitted to her that he had killed Chipley. McMullen had agreed to a lie detector test and then failed, and those results were admitted at trial. Additionally, a boy who had seen a man fleeing the scene of the crime – at nighttime from a distance – had picked McMullen out as resembling the man he had seen. This evidence was presented at trial. The prosecution introduced a snub-nose .38 caliber revolver similar to Maddy’s gun and created the impression for the jury that this had been the murder weapon. However, the prosecution knew well before McMullen’s trial that a long-barrel revolver, and not a snub-nose revolver, had killed Chipley, but they did not disclose this information to McMullen or his attorneys. In McMullen’s defense, several of McMullen’s in-laws testified that he, along with his wife, had been visiting them from about 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on the night of Chipley’s murder. They stated that this visit had taken place at McMullen’s sister-in-law’s home, approximately 100 miles from the murder scene. McMullen repeatedly claimed that he was innocent throughout the trial.
On January 31, 1965, the jury returned a guilty verdict and recommended mercy. Judge David Potter sentenced McMullen to a life term, with eligibility for parole after twenty years.
Although Cecil Maddy had been arrested and indicted alongside McMullen, Maddy was released without a trial due to lack of evidence. Under Ohio law, a wife could not testify against her husband unless a third party was witness to the events as well. Without the testimony of Ella Mae Maddy, there was insufficient evidence to tie Cecil Maddy to the crime.
In 1963, McMullen had been in the penitentiary for eight years when it was discovered by his attorneys, William Dixon and William Thornburgh, that the gun used in a robbery in Greenfield, Ohio, on February 20, 1955 – about two months after the Chipley robbery-murder and well before McMullen’s trial – matched the ballistics of the Chipley murder weapon. This gun had been taken from the three men who had been arrested for the Greenfield robbery. The gun was a .38-caliber Colt official police model with a four-inch barrel. This evidence, however, had not been disclosed to the defense by the prosecution. According to McMullen’s attorneys, it had been determined by the Columbus Police Department and the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation at London that this same gun – and not Cecil Maddy’s gun – had been used to kill Chipley.
On the basis that this evidence had been suppressed and McMullen’s constitutional right to a fair trial denied, he was granted a new trial, which commenced in late September 1965. On October 7, 1965, the jury acquitted McMullen for the robbery and killing of Chipley. After having spent ten years behind bars, McMullen was released.
- 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.