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Pat Metegrano

Pat Metegrano, and his codefendant, Marshall Fischer, were charged with the armed robberies of two taverns on North Ashland Avenue in Chicago in February 1942. In July 1942, three other men confessed to the crime. Police did not disclose the confessions, however, and in October of the same year, Metegrano and Fischer were convicted. They were exonerated that December after their lawyers, Charles Bellows and Morton Anderson, learned of the withheld confessions and forced their disclosure.
The robberies occurred on January 9, 1942. The next day, police received a tip from a witness who reportedly overheard a telephone conversation on a party line referring to “thirty-eight potatoes” and “seventy-eight potatoes.” This presumably referred to the proceeds of the crimes--$38 and $78. Police traced one end of the overheard call to a party line on West Belmont Avenue, where Fischer, 21, was arrested. Metegrano, 25, the other presumed party to the conversation, was arrested later at his home on South Keeler Avenue. At a police station on North Sheffield Avenue, Metegrano and Fischer were identified as the culprits by Elizabeth Cornellissen and Stanley Rezmer, owners of the robbed taverns.
Metegrano and Fischer denied not only the robberies; they also denied having the telephone conversation that had been reported to the police. At their separate trials, each pleaded not guilty and offered an alibi defense. Fischer, who had a prior record, did not testify at this trial, but Metegrano took the stand and professed innocence. Both were convicted based solely on the eyewitness identification testimony. Fischer was sentenced to life in prison, as a result of his prior convictions, and Metegrano to one to five years.
Defense lawyers Bellows, representing Fischer, and Anderson, representing Metegrano, believed in their clients’ innocence and continued investigating the case after the trials. In December 1942, the lawyers learned that Frank Kamik, Nick Gianos, and Joe Piscopo had confessed to the crimes the previous July.
Deeming the withholding of the confessions “a terrible mistake,” First Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Wilbert F. Crowley joined with Bellows and Anderson in a motion to vacate the convictions. Criminal Court Judge Stanley Klarkowski granted the motion, releasing Metegrano and Fischer four days before Christmas.
Metegrano and Fischer received no compensation for the time each had spent behind bars. Kamik, Gianos, and Piscopo were never charged with the robberies, and there was no official investigation into the withholding of the confessions.
- Rob Warden
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1942
Sentence:1 to 5 years
Age at the date of crime:25
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct