Following an attempted burglary in Reisterstown, Maryland, in May 1936, two police officers were pursuing a pair of suspects. During the pursuit, the suspects took one officer’s pistol and drove away in his police car.
Several days after this occurred, Edward Chalk and Joseph C. Martin were arrested, with police stating that Chalk and Martin had been identified by the victims of the attempted burglary and by the police officers who had been robbed. Martin confessed to the crimes, but Chalk maintained his innocence. In Martin’s confession, he stated that Chalk had not been his accomplice. Nonetheless, the case against Chalk went to trial in June 1936, and a jury convicted him after less than thirty minutes of deliberation.
While Chalk was awaiting sentencing, his attorney, R. Lewis Bainder, conducted his own investigation of the crime. The information uncovered by Bainder led police to arrest James DeLisle in connection with the crime for which Chalk had been convicted. Following DeLisle’s arrest, authorities announced there had been a mistake in identifying and convicting Chalk as Martin’s accomplice. In mid-September 1936, Chalk was released and the charges against him were dismissed. James DeLisle was convicted soon thereafter of holding up the police officers, and he and Martin were each sentenced to three years in prison.
- Meghan Barrett Cousino
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.