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Three separate robberies were committed within minutes of one another on the night of December 7, 1930 in East Syracuse, New York. The two men who committed these crimes were traveling in an Oldsmobile that had been stolen earlier that evening. All the victims described their attackers as two men who threatened them with pistols.
Vincent Starowitz (also referenced as Vincent Starowicz) and Joseph Nedza had been released from prison on November 30, 1930, after serving several years for a 1927 burglary which they had committed together. Starowitz was known to be in East Syracuse at the time of the December 7, 1930 robberies, so police showed photos of Starowitz and Nedza to one of the robbery victims. The victim identified Starowitz and Nedza as the pair that had robbed him. Nedza was arrested at the Terminal Hotel, a low cost boarding house near the New York Central Depot, on December 8, and Starowitz was arrested at the New York Central Depot that day as well. Some of the other robbery victims then identified them in person at the police station. Both Starowitz and Nedza initially denied involvement in the robberies.
On December 9, Starowitz signed a written statement in which he confessed to the robberies, identifying a man named “Jimmie” as his accomplice. Police then arrested a man named Albert Sherwood in Utica, New York, for alleged involvement in the robberies as well. Sherwood was prosecuted in Utica because victims of a different robbery in Utica identified Starowitz and Sherwood as the culprits in that robbery prior to Sherwood being brought to East Syracuse for interrogation.
Nedza’s request for a separate trial from Starowitz was denied, and the two men were tried together in February 1931. The prosecution’s case against 24-year-old Nedza was based on the positive identifications made by multiple victims and witnesses. In his defense, Nedza claimed that he had been at the Terminal Hotel at the time of the crimes. He presented three alibi witnesses who confirmed his presence at the hotel. In February 1931, the jury found Nedza guilty, and he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
However, shortly after Nedza’s conviction, Albert Sherwood confessed that it had been him and not Nedza who had participated as Starowitz’s accomplice in the Syracuse robberies. The victim who had originally identified Nedza as one of the robbers changed his mind upon viewing Sherwood in a lineup, then agreeing that Sherwood was the true perpetrator.
Following Sherwood’s confession, Assistant District Attorney William C. Martin presented Nedza’s case as one of mistaken identity, and county Judge William L. Barnum reversed Nedza’s conviction and dismissed the indictments against him. On May 19, 1931, after spending more than 100 days in prison, Nedza was released.
On April 14, 1947, Governor Thomas E. Dewey signed legislation permitting Joseph Nedza and one other wrongfully convicted man to seek damages from the State of New York. No further information could be found regarding whether such damages were ever sought by or paid to Nedza.
– Researched by Alison Senyei
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.