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Robert Anderson

On Christmas Eve in 1969, Robert Anderson was charged with larceny in a building after he was accused of stealing $71 from the purse of Willie Rose Berry in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The evening began when Anderson and two friends, Lester Mayfield and Mary Walker, went to the home of Willie Berry and his wife, Willie Rose, at 57 Canton Street, S.W. Others there included Eldridge Davis, L.T. Pierson, and seven-year-old George Fitzpatrick. During the evening, people watched television and some played cards.

During the evening, Willie Rose asked seven-year-old George to get her purse from the bedroom. When she opened it, she discovered that her money was missing. She asked the people in the living room which one of them had taken her money. When there was no response regarding the whereabouts of the money, Willie Rose called the Grand Rapids police.

The police arrived within 10 minutes and began questioning people, including Anderson about the missing money. Anderson volunteered to take off his shoes. Officer David Benison saw a bulge in one of Anderson’s socks. He pulled down the sock and found a roll of money consisting of three $20 bills, one $10 bill and one $1 bill—a total of $71.

Although Willie Rose first said she was missing $79, she amended that to say she had $71 in her purse.

The police then took Anderson out of the house to a police car and headed to the police station. On the way, Anderson said that the money in his sock was what was left of $75 that he withdrew a day earlier from the Old Kent Bank branch at Franklin Street and Eastern Avenue in Grand Rapids.

Police charged him with larceny in a building. He went to trial in November 1970 in Kent County Circuit Court. Officer Benison testified that Anderson told him he had withdrawn the money and that he also had won about $30 playing poker. George Rogers, the assistant manager of the Old Kent Bank branch, testified for the prosecution that he could not find any records that Anderson had an active or closed savings or checking account.

On November 20, 1970, the jury convicted Anderson. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

While the case was being appealed, Anderson’s lawyer located a savings account book registered in the name of Robert M. Anderson with the Old Kent Bank and Trust Company. On October 1, 1971, the lawyer filed a motion for a new trial accompanied by a photocopy of the account book showing that on December 23, 1969, Anderson withdrew $75 from his account. The motion was denied.

The denial was appealed. In December 1972, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial.

The court said there was “no question” that the testimony that Anderson did not have any accounts at the bank was untrue. “We are constrained to rule that even the testimony [that Anderson had no accounts] was obtained by the prosecutor innocently, and given…in good faith, it was not true, and in fact was used improperly to discredit [Anderson] and obtain his conviction,” the court declared.

On January 5, 1973, Anderson’s case was dismissed and he was released.

– Maurice Possley
Most Serious Crime:Theft
Reported Crime Date:1969
Sentence:4 years
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense