On April 24, 1933, a Los Angeles jury convicted William Oswald Dulin of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison. On August 12, 1936, Governor Frank F. Merriam granted Dulin a full pardon, an action requested and supported by a number of officials, including two deputy sheriffs, two deputy district attorneys, and the judge who tried the case, based on findings of innocence. Dulin was released from prison after a 39-month incarceration.
A body was found at approximately 9:50 p.m. on January 17, 1933, approximately ten feet from the north end of a bridge located at East Spring Street, about one mile west of the town of Los Alamitos and three or four miles east of Long Beach. The body was identified as Mickey Erno, a former boxer, and was still warm when found. Erno died as the result of a gunshot wound to the head.
On February 23, 1933, Dulin and Fred Hayes were jointly charged with Erno’s murder. Dulin and Hayes were tried for Erno’s murder in Los Angeles County Superior Court. At trial, the State alleged that the homicide occurred over an argument regarding the division of funds realized from the sale of a diamond ring. The State alleged that the defendants were angry at Erno for failing to divide the proceeds from the sale of the ring and, therefore, killed him. The State relied primarily on the testimony of Mayme Proctor, a hotel proprietress and confidante of Hayes. Proctor testified that Hayes had told her the details of the crime. The defense contended that Proctor was threatened with a prison sentence unless she testified against the defendants.
On April 24, 1933, after deliberating for six hours, the jury found Hayes and Dulin guilty of first-degree murder and recommended life imprisonment. Dulin filed a motion for a new trial. In support of the motion, Hayes executed an affidavit stating that Dulin was not involved in the crime. In the affidavit, Hayes assumed all responsibility for the perpetration of the murder, stating that he killed Erno on the bridge and then dropped the body over the side. Superior Court Judge Robert J. Scott denied Dulin’s motion for a new trial and imposed a life sentence.
Both Hayes and Dulin appealed the convictions and the orders denying their respective motions for a new trial. Subsequently, on motion of the attorney general, Hayes’s appeal was dismissed and the judgement and order appealed were affirmed. On October 10, 1933, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the guilty verdict against Dulin.
The Supreme Court of California granted Dulin a hearing on November 6, 1933, but concluded that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the verdict and affirmed Dulin’s guilt.
Dulin was one of four men brought to trial for Erno’s murder. In 1934, William Lowery and Dewey Lewis were also brought to trial for the murder and were acquitted in the Los Angeles Superior Court of Judge Isaac Pacht.
On April 9, 1935, Dulin applied to Governor Frank F. Merriam for a pardon. Dulin’s application to the State Advisory Pardon Board was supported by a number of Los Angeles officials, including the trial judge. The sheriff’s department had continued to investigate the case following the initial conviction and concluded that Dulin was not guilty. The District Attorney concluded that he had been poorly advised in the conduct of his defense.
Governor Merriam granted a full pardon on August 12, 1936, and Dulin was released from San Quentin State Prison after having been incarcerated for approximately 39 months. Dulin was given new clothes, a railroad ticket and $10. On November 24, 1936, Dulin filed a compensation claim with the State Board of Control for $5,000. The Board’s ruling on the compensation claim is unknown.
- Erica E. Wray
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.