On November 21, 1976, eleven people, most of whom were elderly, were held up in a lounge on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. The group of armed perpetrators consisted of two men and one woman, and they made off with $15 and a few pieces of jewelry.
Three weeks after the crime, one of the victims saw 25-year-old Garner Bailey sitting in a lounge around the corner from the scene of the crime and identified him as one of the robbers. Bailey had no criminal record and a steady job.
Four other victims positively identified Bailey as well, and a fifth made a tentative identification. Bailey’s close friend, Laurence Adams, testified at Bailey’s pretrial hearing that he had been with Bailey during part of the time when the robbery occurred. At the hearing, one of the witnesses spoke to the prosecutor and told him that Adams was also one of the robbers. Adams was immediately arrested for the robbery.
Based on the eyewitness identifications, Bailey was soon tried and convicted of unarmed robbery. However, Lieutenant Hal Berriman, one of the police officers who investigated the robbery, was not convinced that Bailey was involved in the crime, and he continued the investigation. “I had a feeling he was innocent,” Berriman said. “It was the first time in 17 years I’ve had that feeling about someone who was convicted.” Berriman’s investigation led to another suspect whose appearance closely resembled Bailey’s.
In an effort to prove Bailey’s innocence, his family, who had already fallen into debt paying his legal expenses, paid for him to submit to a polygraph examination. According to the results of the polygraph, Bailey was being truthful when he said he had no knowledge of the robbery. The polygraph results, along with Berriman’s testimony, led Judge Joseph A. Gillis to dismiss the charges against Bailey on December 12, 1977.
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.