On the night of April 22, 1892, two stores in Haverhill, Massachusetts, were burglarized. Several pieces of clothing and other small items were stolen from the stores. The following day, police arrested a group of four young men and recovered some of the stolen property from them. One of the four men, John W. Fields, stated that he had not been involved in the burglaries and that the stolen items had been given to him by the other three – James Howard, John Carney, and John E. Martin.
Few details of Fields’s trial are known. The evidence against him appears to have been his association with the three others and his possession of some of the stolen items. Fields was convicted of breaking and entering and larceny on May 2, 1892, and he was sentenced to two years and six months in prison.
Following the trial, the prosecutor, District Attorney W.H. Moody reinvestigated the case and became convinced that Fields had an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the burglaries. Although the details of Moody’s reinvestigation cannot be found, he concluded that Fields was not guilty of the crimes.
Moody wrote a letter to Massachusetts Governor William Russell recommending that Fields be pardoned because he was innocent. Governor Russell signed the pardon on December 23, 1892, and Fields was freed after spending over seven months in prison.
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.