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Raymond Riley


38-year-old Brooklyn, New York, attorney Raymond J. Riley had recently been admitted to the New York State Bar when he was hired by Gladys Dyment, administratrix of the estate of Nettie S. Woods. Woods had been killed in a car accident in Buffalo, New York, and Dyment engaged Riley to assist her in settling Woods’ small estate and making a claim against the driver of the other car in the fatal accident.
 
In seeking to collect from the other driver, Riley hired a local Buffalo, New York, attorney and paid him an advance sum of $300. Around this same time, Dyment received a check from the bank for $235.28, which constituted the total amount that had been in the bank account of Woods upon her death. According to Riley, Dyment then endorsed this check and gave it to him, with the instruction that he was to apply the amount toward the $300 advance he had paid the attorney in Buffalo. Riley reported that he had required Dyment to sign a written authorization before he agreed to withdraw the $235.28, and that Dyment had executed such an authorization on January 11, 1935. The claim against the driver in Buffalo resulted in $2,000 for the estate of Woods.
 
Dyment later filed a complaint with the Kings County district attorney claiming that Riley had withdrawn the $235.28 without her consent to do so. The district attorney then filed a grand larceny charge against Riley. At trial, Riley presented the signed authorization from Dyment, but Dyment denied that she had signed the document and claimed her signature must have been forged. The defense presented a handwriting expert who testified that the authorization was authentic. Riley was found guilty by the jury in June 1936 and sentenced to spend eighteen months to five years in Sing Sing prison. Riley did not serve any of the sentenced jail time because he paid full restitution, but he was disbarred from the legal profession due to his conviction.
 
Riley soon began the appeals process but it became too costly for him to proceed. Years passed and Riley, living with the stigma of disbarment and a criminal conviction, convinced Louis B. Heller, an attorney and state senator, to take on his case without charge. Heller and Riley learned that at Riley’s trial, the prosecution had sought the opinion of its own handwriting expert, Elbridge W. Stein, in order to provide testimony at trial to offset that of the defense’s handwriting expert. However, Stein had informed the district attorney that he believed Dyment was being dishonest and that the signature on the authorization was authentic. The district attorney then chose not to call Stein as a witness, and also required Stein to exit the courtroom examination room through a back exit so that no one in the courtroom was aware he had been there at all.
 
Upon learning this new information, Heller presented it to Kings County Judge Carmine J. Marasco in 1948. The assistant district attorney at that time submitted the signature evidence to the Technical Research Bureau of the New York Police Department, which found Dyment’s signature on the authorization to be genuine. Judge Marasco vacated Riley’s conviction and set aside the indictment. In his opinion, Judge Marasco discussed how the district attorney had a duty to disclose Stein’s opinion to the jury and that, in failing to do so, the district attorney had deprived Riley of a fair trial.
 
 – Meghan Barrett Cousino
State:NY
County:Kings
Most Serious Crime:Theft
Reported Crime Date:1935
Convicted:1936
Exonerated:1948
Sentence:1.5 to 5 years
Race:Don't Know
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:38
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct