After three men robbed the C & D Café in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on August 9, 1961, twenty-year-old painter Willie Comer was quickly identified by two eyewitnesses as one of the robbers. A month later, Comer was convicted of the robbery of C & D Café and sentenced to two to four years at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
Two months after Comer’s conviction, one of his co-defendants, Dewitte Brown, who was then serving a prison sentence as well, wrote to the district attorney to inform him that Comer had not been involved in the robbery of C & D Cafe. Instead, Brown identified nineteen-year-old Harold L. Edwards as his accomplice. Edwards admitted that he, and not Comer, had been the third accomplice in the robbery, though Edwards claimed he had been unaware his companions were planning the robbery.
With this new evidence of Comer’s innocence, the judge who had sentenced Comer released him on a writ of error coram noblis – an error in prosecution – on January 20, 1962.
Just ten days after his release from prison, Comer was arrested for beating and robbing a storeowner. He was convicted of these crimes in March 1962 and sentenced to a term of four and a half to nine 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.