Two armed men robbed a bank in Crawford, Georgia, on December 18, 1936. A third accomplice picked the robbers up in a car and they escaped with over $3,000. Several weeks later, Martin Prisament (also referenced as Martin Prisonment) and Frank Cartee were arrested for this crime.
At the time of this arrest, police stated that Prisament and Cartee had in their possession three pistols, a shotgun, ropes, adhesive money bags, and ammunition. They were driving a car with a South Carolina license plate, but were also in possession of a New York license plate registered to Frank Cartee under the name of Frank Johnson. After their arrest, four eyewitnesses identified Prisament and Cartee as the robbers.
At trial, the two men presented an alibi as their defense. They provided evidence confirming that they had boarded a bus in New York at 5:25 a.m. on December 20, 1936. The bus took them to Greenville, South Carolina, where they arrived early in the morning. They provided numerous witnesses to confirm that they had been in New York in the days preceding this bus trip, including witnesses to confirm their presence in New York on December 16, 17, 18 and 19. The government, however, claimed that the men could have driven to South Carolina to commit the robbery and made it back to New York in time to catch the 5:25 a.m. bus there on December 20. Both men were convicted by a jury in June 1937. Prisament was sentenced to three years in prison and Cartee was sentenced to twelve.
Two years after the conviction of Prisament and Cartee, a man named George Slade was arrested in connection with a different robbery, and confessed that he had committed the Crawford robbery with accomplice John Gardner. Slade and Gardner were identified in a lineup by bank employees and their story was otherwise confirmed. On July 23, 1939, after each serving thirty months in prison, Prisament and Cartee were unconditionally pardoned based on innocence by President Roosevelt.
Shortly after his release, Prisament was arrested and convicted of a robbery in New York. Despite his pardon based on innocence, he was treated as a second-time offender in this sentencing because of his robbery conviction in Georgia. Prisament appealed this ruling on the basis that he had been pardoned based on innocence for his conviction in Georgia, but the New York Court of Appeals found that “a presidential pardon, even if granted because the President is satisfied that the convicted person is innocent, is an act of grace which does not obliterate the findings of guilt.”
- 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.