Convicted of rape in Suffolk County, Massachusetts in 1904, John J. Fitzgerald was pardoned by Governor John Lewis Bates five months later when the victim admitted she had given false testimony.
On April 5, 1904, Fitzgerald, a peddler, sold a peck of apples to the Boston household of Joseph J. Wilde, Mary A. Keane’s employer. Several days later, on April 8, Keane, a 17-year-old servant, was left alone in the house and claimed that Fitzgerald returned to peddle apples again. Keane claimed that she had been attacked and raped by him.
Later that night, Fitzgerald and his uncle, Richard E. Fitzgerald, were brought into the police station. In the police lineup, Keane identified the younger Fitzgerald as her attacker.
According to Fitzgerald, Keane agreed to the sexual encounter in return for payment. They subsequently disagreed on the amount of that payment, which led to a physical altercation between the two and Keane’s charge that Fitzgerald had raped her.
On May 18, 1904, a Suffolk County Superior Court jury convicted Fitzgerald of rape and sentenced him to three to five years in prison. Several months later, Keane was brought into the police station on an unrelated charge and admitted that she had given false testimony against Fitzgerald and that no rape had been committed.
On November 2, 1904, Governor Bates pardoned 22-year-old Fitzgerald after he had served five months of his sentence. Ten days later, the Suffolk County Superior Court indicted Keane for perjury and two days later sentenced her to probation and fined her $300.
- Spencer Burke and Dolores Kennedy
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.