On the night of March 15, 1925, a group of men were gathered at a grocery supply store owned by Elbert Phipps and A. L. English in Currie, Texas, for a game of dominoes. A man, armed with a revolver and wearing a handkerchief tied around his face, entered the store and ordered the men to “stick ‘em up.” He moved toward the cash register, and a second man, similarly wearing a handkerchief tied around his face, entered the store to assist. A third man, also wearing a handkerchief, was with their group, waiting outside as the apparent lookout. The robbers took approximately $200 and left the store.
Later that night, English identified the first man to enter the store as H.A. “Cork” Clements (also referenced as H. A. Clemons), who owned a nearby store with his business partner, Earl Shannon. This identification was based on Clements’ physical appearance.
The following day, Phipps collected money from the store of Clements and Shannon. One of the bills given to him was a mutilated one-dollar bill that Phipps recognized from the cash register at his own store. Following this discovery, Phipps had Shannon and Clements arrested.
Before Shannon’s trial in November 1925, Phipps told Shannon’s attorney that English had said that Clements was the only one of the robbers he could identify. The trial judge refused to permit Shannon’s attorney to testify to Phipps’ statement, and Shannon was convicted. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Clements was also convicted, and he was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary as well. However, Shannon immediately appealed his conviction on the grounds that his attorney had not been permitted to testify as to his conversation with Phipps.
Shannon was released on bond pending the appeal of his case, while Clements began serving his prison sentence. The court granted Shannon a retrial.
Shortly thereafter, Clements met a man in the penitentiary named Blackie Davis, who confessed to him that he had committed the robbery. Clements was granted a 60-day furlough to locate and identify Davis’ accomplices, which he did. Davis’ accomplice, Leonard Wassum, admitted his guilt as well. On May 24, 1929, Texas Governor Dan Moody pardoned Clements for the robbery. Shannon had not yet been retried, and the charges against him were instead dismissed.
- Christine Prorok
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.