Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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Adolf Beck (1904 conviction)



"Fraud (passing bad checks, documents, casino, bankrupcy, etc.)"


Exonerated After Conviction But Prior to Sentencing

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Year Cleared:


U.S. State or Country of Crime:

United Kingdom

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Summary of Case:

"Adolph Beck was twice wrongly convicted of check fraud in separate cases, first on March 5, 1896, and again in June 1904, based on his mistaken identification by several people each time as John Smith, the man who had swindled them. At Adolf Beck's first trial a handwriting expert testified that Mr. Beck's handwriting matched the swindlers. Mr. Smith had previously been convicted of swindling in 1877 and imprisoned. Mr. Beck's solicitor failed to clear his client with clear proof he had been in South America when Mr. Smith was imprisoned in 1877, and therefore he couldn't be the swindler. Beck served 5 years 4 months in prison after the 1896 conviction before his parole in 1901. After his 1904 wrongful conviction a man called Thomas was arrested on similar charges. After seeing Thomas, the women who had testified against Beck realized he wasn't the man who had defrauded them, but he merely resembled Thomas, who was actually John Smith. It was determined that Thomas had committed all the crimes Beck had been convicted of, and he was the John Smith convicted in 1877. On July 29, 1904 King Edward VII granted Beck a full pardon and in September 1904 he was awarded £2,000 pounds in ex gratia compensation for having been wrongly convicted twice, and spending a total of over 5 years and 4 months wrongly imprisoned. Beck's compensation was raised to £5,000 due to public clamor. As a result of Beck's case, the United Kingdom created a Criminal Court of Appeals to review convictions. Beck died on December 7, 1909 at the age of 68."

Conviction Caused By:

"False identification by "eyewitness" victims"

Innocence Proved By:

"Eyewitnesses recanted identification when confronted with actual criminal. Granted a "free pardon" by England's Home Secretary in 1904."

Defendant Aided By:

Compensation Awarded:


Was Perpetrator Identified?

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Age When Released:





Information Source 1:

"How To Solve A Murder: The Forensic Handbook," Michael Kurland, MacMillian, 1995, p. 115-116."

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Information Source 2:

""The Sins of our forebears," James Morton (solicitor and former editor of the New Law Journal), 2001, from seminar given at the Inns of Court School of Law in October 2001."

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Book About Case:

""The Sins of our forebears," James Morton (solicitor and former editor of the New Law Journal), 2001, from seminar given at the Inns of Court School of Law in October 2001."

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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org

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