Nineteen years not guilty : the Leonard Hankins story in his own words / as told to Earl Guy [1 ed.]

An account of Hankins' unjust and unlawful conviction for murder, and his nearly two decade-long imprisonment in th

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Nineteen years not guilty : the Leonard Hankins story in his own words / as told to Earl Guy [1 ed.]

Table of contents :
Foreword 5
Nineteen Years Not Guilty 9
Epilogue 99
Appendix: Report of the Claims Commission 101

Citation preview

Nineteen Years Not Guilty

The Leonard Hankins Story in His Own Words






EXPOSITION PRESS INc., 386 Fourth Avenue, New York 16, N. Y. FIRST EDITION

@ 1956 by Earl Guy. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Manufactured in the United States of America. Library of Congress catalog card number: 55-12282.

Foreword Leonard Hankins gave me this story on a tape recorder, and my main concern has been to keep it his, to maintain the simple directness of the narration. It would have been easy to overdramatize it. It would have been easy also to pile detail on detail, to glamorize and pretty it up, to add in short another two or three hundred pages. But the real Leonard Hankins would have been lost in the verbiage probably, and it seems to me about time for the individual to have a chance to speak for himself, without the writer interpreting his experiences or inflating them unduly. Now and then, the narrator knows more about what is real and important. I have tried, therefore, to let Leonard speak his own mind in his own words, to add only the detail and atmosphere which will bring out his feelings and give the book continuity and order. EARL Guy


Foreword Nineteen Years Not Guilty Epilogue Appendix: Report of the Claims Commission

5 9 99 101


I am fixing to tell you of a crime for which I did nineteen years, a crime I had no knowledge of-the robbery of the Third Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis. When it happened, I was in a barber-shop on Wabasha in St. Paul, getting a shave. As a matter of fact, I shaved myself because both barbers were busy. After I had finished and had started out of the place with a friend I'll call Jack, a bunch of squad cars passed, rushing toward Minneapolis, their sirens wide open. The traffic wheeled over, came to a stop. The police disappeared toward the dome of the capitol, that looked over the town. It was an accident, I thought, or maybe a fire. But at the house where I was stopping, the lady ran to the door to tell us that the bank had been robbed, and that the bandits had killed a couple of policemen. And inside, just as we were about to get seated, a second broadcast came in over the radio, saying that the mob was believed to be surrounded in Como Park. We heard nothing further that evening. But we did note by the paper that a curious motorist had been killed in the park, and that the robbers had all got away. The next day, Jack came over to St. Paul-he was living in Minneapolis-and we played a few hands of cards, drank some beer and walked down to a place to see a man about a game we were interested in. There was still a lot of talk about the holdup, of course. But there were no new developments,



and we didn't think a great deal about it. We finished our business and returned to the apartment. By then, Jack figured he ought to start home, for his wife had just got out of the hospital and he had to pay a woman to stay with her. He said too that his cash was getting down pretty low. So I told the lady at the house to give him fifty dollars out of some money she was holding for me. She went to get it, discovering that it was gone; that another boy who was stopping there was also gone. I couldn't believe it. He hadn't lived far from me in Kentucky. All we found in his room, though, was an old gun which I stuck in my belt, thinking I might be able to peddle it. I turned back through the door, sure he would try to leave town. But we checked the bus stations, the depots and all trains and buses running south. We got no line on him at all. We wound up at Jack's apartment, where I spent the night. The following morning, we heard in a newscast that one of the bank bandits had been caught in St. Paul with part of the loot. But I didn't think too much about it, because I was in a hurry to get back, and Jack still had to get the woman to stay with his wife again. So we stopped at a filling station around the corner from her place, and while Jack ran up to get her, I had the car serviced. He hadn't returned by the time the attendant had finished. I waited maybe another twenty-five minutes, but he still didn't show up. I cut around to this apartment to check on him, see what had happened. When I knocked on the door, the woman there said, "Just a minute." And within a minute, I'd say, she told me, "Okay," and opened the door, and I stepped in to find myself covered with guns. The room and the hallway were swarming with policemen. They ordered me to get my hands in the air. I just stood there kind of numb and surprised. But I wasn't scared in particular. I remember thinking, What the hell is this? Then I thought of the old gun. I knew that was bad. I pulled the thing out and handed it, butt-first, to a policeman.



"Watch it!" somebody shouted. There was a rush for me. The place seemed to rock. I jerked . .. tried to duck. They crushed me to the wall, pinned both my arms, snapped a pair of handcuffs on me. "For Christ's sake," one copper said. "Don't you know better than that? You just missed gettin' killed." "I was just trying to give you the gun," I said. "Just trying to show you I had nothing to hide." "You had the gun, didn't you?" another cop said. "You know there's been a bank robbery, don't you? . . . Come on, boys,

get him out of here." "Now wait a minute," I said. "I ain't a bank robber." "Come on!" They hustled me outside into a squad car, wheeled it through streets that looked dirty, slotted with traffic. The buildings came at me like big rocks rolled down a hill. I braced myself in the seat. The law turned down a ramp and carried me up an elevator into the Minneapolis city jail. I was winded as if I had run the whole way. The bars and the red faces of policemen squeezed in around me. They pushed me up to the desk to be booked. I asked what the idea was after the sergeant had entered my name on the blotter; then I asked the man in the fingerprint room. "I just work around here," he said. I think he was called Harrington. He covered the ends of my fingers with ink, then started to roll the prints onto a pad. Then suddenly four detectives shoved into the room, declaring that I had only three minutes to sing, that I had better spill where my end of that bank loot was. I told them I had no knowledge of the crime. I said that if they were putting it at three minutes, they might as well call the time up, because I had no knowlege whatever of the robbery. Before I got the words out, I was smacked in the mouth. I jumped kind of backwards, and they all came at me, all four of them. I was knocked to the floor. Someone kicked me.



I struggled back to my knees, dodged a series of blows, tried to shield myself with my arms. A boot toe caught me under the chin, flipped me clean over. Men jumped for me, grinding their feet into my ribs, trampling my face. I could taste blood. Black spots drove at my eyes. The lights shuttered out. When I came to, I could feel them around me. I twitched, trying not to move. I choked for my breath. They began to move in, fixing to work on me again. The Bertillon expert shoved in between them. "Let him alone," he said. "He can't stand any more." They turned and filed out. The room was still dim, spinning, it seemed like. I sat up, shook my head, trying to clear it, and felt for my nose. It was smashed all over my face. My ribs were crushed, one side of them sticking straight out. My mouth was split, and I could hardly move my jaw. I looked around slowly. Harrington got his hands under my armpits and helped me to my feet. I steadied myself by the wall, and limped across to a chair. There was talking far off. A light bulb glared right over my eyes. I went to sit down. Then two policemen appeared, grabbed me, hustled me back in the jail, and threw me on a slab. The door slammed. I could hear their feet going away, slapping away on the cement. I took out my handkerchief and wiped the blood off my face. It didn't make sense . . . nothing made sense. I knew I

had been in the barber-shop the very minute that bank had been robbed. I knew I had nothing to do with it. And I tried to explain things as people began to come in, asking me questions. "Who are you kiddin'?" they said. "It's the truth," I said. "So help me to my mother. You can check on it." But the chief of police-his name was Meehan-just gave me a big laugh. I had been one of them, he kept telling the visitors. "Remember him," he said. Well, I saw that I was up against it, sure enough. I thought I could recognize a frame when I saw it, and I had to admit



that the cards I had played in my life weren't going to help me. I had to remember too how my old daddy had warned me back in Kentucky when I was sixteen, after he had found the money I had won in a crap game in an old hollow stump. "Son," he had said, taking a halter strap off a harness peg in the barn, "this here's for your own good. You can never win gambling, no matter how much you make." That night I had rolled a few clothes in a bundle and walked into Princeton. The next morning, I caught a freight for Paducah, where I got a job with the Ringlings' circus, and where I fell in with probably the best gambler the country had known. Right then, my fate was decided for me, I guess. I learned all of the man's tricks. I improved on them, added a few of my own. I suppose I was what you might call a natural. Anyway, I was in some of the biggest games in the country before I was twenty. I won fortunes and lost them or gave them away. Money was never hard for me to get. I could take a deck of cards and make more in an hour than most men could earn in a month. But my father never approved of it, though he didn't hold it against me, and looking back, I had to wonder if the road I had traveled hadn't always been headed straight for this cell. I wondered whether I could have avoided it. I stared at the bars. The jail was old, dirty, and I was in the worst section of it, in what they called "Duffy's Flats." The cell itself was a sixby-six cubicle, with no water and an iron slab for a bed. I was alone, although I could hear other prisoners in the main part of the jail, and of course I could hear the voices of policemen. In fact, it seemed like most of them were yelling at me. They kept bothering me. They wouldn't allow me to sleep. All night, they kept coming back to my cell, rapping on the bars, threatening me, asking me questions. I tried to ignore them, hugging my broken ribs. But they kept coming, and the next morning they started taking me to the show-up, which was a joke, for I felt that I had already been pointed out to most of the witnesses. I was lined up with men too who were unmarked, while my bruised and puffed face stood out like a



headlight. I couldn't even stand straight because of my ribs. I had bought some papers to lie on to ease some of the pain. But the soreness got worse, and I got so sore after about a dozen trips to the show-up room that I couldn't get off the slab. They came in then and hauled me to my feet, yanking my hands through the bars, handcuffing me there. I stood there. I was hooked up there from early in the morning till, I'd say, eight o'clock at night for four or five days. Each time they wanted me for the show-up, they would take me down, and when I was trying to pull myself along the bars and do the best I could to get to the place, the chief of police would give me short jabs in the ribs, saying: "We're going to gradually kill you anyway." This went on twice a day for more than a week. In addition, I was interviewed many times and looked over many times by people who were brought back to the cell. Often too, the police, some of whom I didn't know, would come by while I was hooked to the bars, would take their blackjacks out, my knuckles sticking out there, and break my fingers. I had at least three of my fingers broken. They would hit me over the knuckles with their blackjacks. I couldn't get to a lawyer either. I couldn't communicate with anybody. I saw no one, excepting policemen and prosecutors. My friend Jack was locked in another part of the jail, and three men on the force, Sig Couch, Johnny Albrecht and Joe Burns, who I learned later had objected to the whole business, and who might have helped me, were kept away from me. So all I could do was try to hold on. Nor was I sure I could. I had heard that the man picked up in St. Paul had been caught with part of the loot, that his brother had been arrested as well, but I had no hope that they would clear me. I continued to pull myself to the show-up. I took the blows from the blackjacks. I stood through the hours at the bars, and I thought it never would end. At the last, I was just hanging there in the handcuffs. Then one day, a chief of detectives I had known a good



many years came up from Kansas City. He stopped in front of my cell. I stared, unable to recognize him for almost a minute. The bars were like fingers clutched over my face. Finally, he said, "Hankins, what have they got you in here for? When did you turn to be bank robber?" "Mr. Higgins," I said, "I have no knowledge of this crime whatsoever." He walked away, and it was as if the only friend I had in the world were leaving me flat. I wanted to call to him, but couldn't get the words out. I watched him vanish at the end of the corridor. The graveyard echoes which inhabit a jail were all I had left. But in less than an hour, I was unhooked and transferred to the county jail on the other side of the building. There, I was given fair treatment until my trial came up. Or should we say it was a trial?

The same show-up routine went on in the county side, of course. They brought in a lot of boys there who were trusties, lining me up with them. I still showed the marks of the beating, was wearing fair clothes, while they had on jail uniforms, and by that time my picture had been spread across the front pages of all the newspapers. Anyone in the world could have picked me out. I was identified partially by several-I'd say four or fivewitnesses, only one of them from the bank, where there were many employees. But that seemed enough for the police and Ed Goff, the county attorney. They had me, they claimed, and they took me back and forth, took me out time after time to try to get me to sign a confession, which I absolutely refused to do, though

I could see that they meant to hang it on me, regardless. I pleaded with them, kept telling them they had an innocent man. So did Couch and Albrecht and Burns, until Chief Meehan threatened to fire them if they didn't shut up; and maybe there were others who spoke for me too. Still, nothing did any good.

Goff and the chief continued to dog me. "You come clean," they said, "and we'll see what we can do. We can make it easier for you; we can help you."

"I've told you I didn't do it," I said. "You know I didn't do it." But I knew I was helpless. I couldn't hire a lawyer, since



the boy in the rooming house had taken most of my money. I wasn't even allowed to get in touch with my family. I couldn't sleep either, and my ribs were giving me hell. More than once I thought of giving in to the law, so I could at least get some medical attention. But I hung on. I hung on through days that seemed as black as the nights. I stood off the questions. I didn't fall for the promises, and finally I just up and told them straight out that, seeing as how they couldn't beat it out of me, they needn't think they could con it out of me; that I would rather die behind prison bars than confess to something I hadn't done. Well, they gave it up then, and went to stacking the deck on me. And I guess it wasn't too hard. The papers had already made a big to-do over my gambling, and over the old gun I'd had on me when I was arrested, and they tried to tie me into things I hadn't even been close to. I heard, too, through the grapevine that the police and the county attorney needed a victim. They had to cover themselves for more reasons than one, I heard, because both the Twin Cities were supposed to be controlled by the rackets. Anyhow, there was plenty of criticism. As I recall, an editor or somebody had been shot down in cold blood for exposing some of the graft and corruption, and I was told that a little feud was going on between the bosses of the two towns over control of the slots. In fact, I even heard that the bank robbery had been ordered by the mob in St. Paul to put the heat on Minneapolis. Regardless, the law and the prosecutor were out for the headlines, and I was made to order for them. I was the sucker this time. I didn't stand a chance in the game they were dealing. So the grand jury indicted me and found a bill for killing two policemen-two indictments for murder and one for bank robbery. The trial was set immediately. A lawyer was appointed by the court, a public defender whose name, I believe, was Fitchette. He came to me and wanted the truth. "I'll fight a case the same as the best lawyer in the country," he said, "if I think you are innocent." I then gave him the straightforward facts, move by move



on the day of this bank robbery. He checked, then returned to my cell and told me I had told him the truth. "I'll have you out of there in a few days," he said. But he didn't have me out. As a matter of fact, they took him off the case; Goff had him jerked off the case that same day-how, I don't know. Some kind of dirty work, I suppose. Anyway, Fitchette made another trip to my cell. "You had better get yourself some good attorneys," he said. "They're going to try to railroad you." Well, what could I do? Without money, I had to take another court-appointed attorney, and they did appoint one, John J. Kelly, a young lawyer who fought his heart out-who never gave up. He told me, like Fitchette, that he believed I was innocent. He did all that was possible in preparing the case. But he was one man against the whole state, and he had little to work with. I saw my chances getting slimmer and slimmer. We asked for a delay, so we could raise some money for my defense. The law wouldn't grant it. The fatal day was coming up. One man had pleaded guilty to the crime-the man caught in St. Paul, about whose guilt there was no doubt, because of the Third Northwestern bank wrappers on the money found in his apartment-and two others, my partner and the brother of the confessed robber, had been indicted. But I was the first one shoved into trial. The night before, they brought back Lawrence DeVol, the one who had pleaded guilty, from Stillwater Prison, and the next morning-in fact, every time that I was carried to that courthouse, everywhere I went, they hooked him onto me to make a showing. I'll never forget how it felt walking down that corridor, surrounded by policemen, with the flash bulbs bursting. The courtroom was packed. The feelings of the people were high. Photographers were falling over reporters, and it seemed kind of like a carnival to everybody but me. I guess I was prejudiced.

The trial itself was like a bad dream, a terrible nightmare, where you can't even move without being smothered. I felt like somebody had his hands on my throat. I don't think I had a friend in the place, except Mr. Kelly. Ed Goff and his assistant, Bill Compton, had certainly shown where they stood, and the judge, a dried-up, wrinkled old man, with dried-up, squinty eyes pinched against a big nose, did me no favors. In fact, I had heard that he had said I was guilty as sin before the trial ever began. Anyway, he gave me no breaks, and some of the evidence he allowed to go in-I don't know too much about law, but some of the evidence that went into the case was unbelievable. John Kelly turned sick. He said he had never seen anything like it, and the lawyers who were sitting in for the other two men to get a line on the evidence declared that they couldn't believe it was an American court. I couldn't myself. I had been in a few courtrooms, and the way the judge acted would, it seemed to me, have made a Hitler squirm in his grave. He turned the case over to the county attorney, you might as well say. He let Goff ring in everything which had been found in DeVol's apartment and car-money, bank wrappers, guns, one of them similar to the gun I had got in the place where I stayed, and every objection that John Kelly made was promptly



overruled. Six or eight witnesses testified, then contradicted each other. They brought a man in-he said his name was Mason-who claimed he had been in Paducah, and that Lawrence DeVol had been a witness for me there-a man I had never seen. (When we had a chance to check on this Mason after the trial, we couldn't even find where he had lived. He had given a vacant lot for an address.) Another witness, a woman, came all the way up from Kentucky, sent by a policeman who had it in for me. She had been in every house of ill-fame from Dawson Springs to Paducah and Evansville. Well, I'll just call her a river rat; she laid up in the river joints. I had seen her two or three times around Dawson, and I actually didn't recognize her, they had her fixed up so. But she was a fine lady there. She was a housekeeper for a great family. The great family, it turned out, ran a plain whore house. Another man stepped up to testify. The bandits had not even made him face the wall or lie down, he said, although they had killed a couple of policemen, plus a motorist who had tried to get a look at their faces. But he had just backed up and sat down. He had watched the whole show. Well, I've been stuck up two or three times myself, and they never did let me sit down like that. They rushed me to the wall in a hurry. I'll guarantee I never did get to look. They put a sixteen-year-old kid on the stand, a kid nobody could shake, who swore coldly and finally that I was one of the robbers. But at my partner's trial, his best friend proved how he had lied. He testified, his friend did, that the boy had shown him a newspaper picture of my partner and me, and had asked him if he wanted to make some money. "You can't miss," he had said. "All you got to do is go up there, and you'll make some money like I did." But his friend wouldn't go for it. He went to his father, said he believed that there was an innocent man in prison, that



they were fixing to send another, and when he told his story in court, the kid got up and sneaked out of the place. At my trial, though, he never batted an eye. He was positive. He really had been rehearsed. A banker from Menomonie, Wisconsin, whose bank had been robbed came on the witness stand. Remember, I was being tried for robbery and murder. They held up the old gun I had stuck in my belt back in St. Paul, asking him if he had ever seen it before. He said: "Yes." "When was the first time you ever saw it?" "When Hankins shot my brother, and him lying on the floor, in the raid on our bank." John Kelly jumped to his feet to demand that the jury be dismissed and a mistrial declared. The judge kind of laughed, then overruled him. Mr. Kelly then asked that the testimony be stricken from the record. But the damage was done. The jury, I noticed at the time, almost rose out of their seats. We asked the judge for time to expose all the false testimony, to show by a ballistics test that neither I nor the old gun had been in Menomonie. He would not allow it, and ordered the trial to proceed. It went ahead, getting worse, it seemed like, and one of the attorneys sitting in on the case, after the judge had overruled so many things, got up, took his brief case and walked out of the courtroom, saying he would not sit by and see a man railroaded in such a way. As a matter of fact, we went back to Judge Bardwell's chambers to take a smoke, and I had been identified in so many different ways, in so many different places, wearing so many different kinds of clothes-black suit, black overcoat, light overcoat, light suit, and so forth-that the judge asked me, "Hankins, were you carrying a wardrobe with you?" They had me jumping over the counter, hitting the teller. They had me at the mailbox with the machine-gunner. They had me in the lobby, holding everybody at bay. So that is the kind of testimony on which I was given life. I was sentenced to spend the balance of my natural days at



hard labor-the balance of my natural life, I believe, was the sentence. They asked me if I had anything to say. I turned, and I said: "Yes. Through my knowledge and through my travels and reading, I've never seen where seven participated in a crime of this kind that it's ever stood up. I believe that this case will break. And I'm hoping that it will be in the near future. I want to say to the jury that you have convicted an innocent man. They led me from the courtroom. They gave me thirty minutes to get my stuff ready. I got ready, put on a suit of clothes, taking a few things with me, and when we started out, it still seemed like something in a dream. I could hardly realize what was happening. There were motorcycle coppers everywhere, cars ahead of us loaded with policemen, cars behind us loaded with policemen, motorcycle coppers running by up and down, as though they had the greatest gangster in the world. I kept asking myself what they wanted me for, what I had done to them. It was like I was numb. And I watched the houses and trees without seeing them. The land shivered me. The sky was a big tent of cold that had no light in it. I felt the steel on my wrists cutting into my heart. I think I blinked back some tears, and after a while they showed Stillwater to me from the top of a hill-a batch of tile roofs surrounded by gun towers and walls next to a river. The police traded jokes as we got out there. I couldn't speak any words. I could only try to imagine what it would be like inside a prison. I had never seen the inside of one. I kind of stopped at the top of the steps. Someone behind grabbed at my shoulder. "Hey," he said. "Take a look! Take a look at the outside world. It's the last time you're ever going to see it." Several photographers snapped my picture when I turned my head.


I was hurried inside through two or three gates into a rotunda that opened into a hallway, with a cell block on either side of it. The yellow bricks of the walls and the polished stone floors seemed to hold the gloom of the bars. I think I sucked in my breath. They unlocked the handcuffs, and turned me over to a guard who was waiting. He ordered me to come on, led me past a print shop and library and into an office marked "Deputy Warden." There, he waved me into a ward right behind it (I learned later that the hole cells were in it), and told me to strip. I pulled off my clothes. They handed me an old bathrobe. I was escorted across the hall to the tailor shop, where there was a barber chair. Here, they started clipping my hair. I went through the routine from there to the bathhouse, was given a piece of old yellow soap, and ordered to get my bath. I could feel the eyes of the other inmates on me, could see some of them smile. I turned on the water. When I had finished, a guard threw me a bunch of worn-out clothes, the worst they can give you when you first go in there, and told me to put them on. I looked at the stuff-cotton-flannel underwear made up like overalls, threadbare gray pants, thick, heavy shoes. I got into the rags. The guard rapped his cane on the floor, then motioned me with his head. He marched me back to the deputy's office, and the officer



there-they called him the captain of solitary-led me down the corridor again, through the rotunda, into one of the cell blocks, where he told me to wait at a cupboard-like desk until the cell-hall captain returned. I stood there, looking up at the tiers of the cells, at the galleries which circled the block. Everything was clean and well-kept. But it didn't impress me. I wasn't a visitor. I was a convict, and when the cell-hall captain got back, he made me know it. He gave me a hard, once-over stare, and ordered me to fold my arms. Then he asked me for the slip of paper they had given me in the deputy's office-he called it a pass-and put my name down in a big book. Afterward, he locked me right in a front cell, on the ground floor, in what's called "show-up row"; I'd call it that anyhow. For the next eight days, you can't imagine what it was like. I thought I must be some kind of freak put on exhibition. I think there were around two or three hundred officers, or bulls, or screws, or whatever you want to call them, working there then, and they would stand four and five deep in front of my cell, with their eyes set, staring, staring at me, burning me down, looking me over from head to foot just as if I were an animal, a wild beast. I learned later that they had orders to do that. They had to be able to recognize me, so they would know me wherever they saw me. The men who had only three or four years didn't go through with that, of course. But in a case of my kind, practically all of them did. Well, I can't say that it was a bed I slept on the first night, though they called it a bed; at least they had it put up in that way; but actually I believe there were sticks in it as big around as my thumb. I tried to get some rest. I turned. I listened to hundreds of men sleeping or seeking for sleep, to toilets thumping and flushing, to a kind of moaning which was the rush of air from the registers down through the corridors, to coughing and snoring and a muffled cry now and then. I thought of my kinfolks back in Kentucky; of the sentence which had been passed on me. The bad dream came to be



real. I turned and kept turning. I never did get to sleep. There were welts on me the next morning, all over my body. I looked at my body where I had lain. The mattress was one of those straw mattresses, at least it was supposed to be a straw mattress, but I would say they had stuffed it with sticks. They brought the meals around on a cart (they seemed to have a lot of men under locks), in deep, narrow pans, with dividers in them. These they shoved through the bars, or between the bars, I guess you would say. And the food-it was like nothing else on this earth. I had been around in my life. I had seen plenty of poor folks, but I had never seen anybody eat slop like they gave us: a ladle of gravy and a potato boiled with the bide on for breakfast; and stew or fatback for dinner; wormy dried fruit or bean soup for supper. Sometimes we had raw pancakes, and once in a while we got fresh beef or pork. But mostly we just got the same slop. And they had rules there that a decent man wouldn't use on a dog. They had the silent system. You couldn't talk, couldn't make a motion, couldn't turn your head, when you were out of the cells. You couldn't look out of a window. In the shops, you couldn't go to the toilet without raising your hand and getting a nod from the screw. Any back talk to a guard meant the dungeon, or, as they called it, the hole, and what I mean, you didn't even have to talk back. You just looked like you wanted to, and that's what you got. They called that disrespect or impertinence or something. Anyhow, they had a name for whatever you did, and any time they wanted to get you, they got you. If the screw had it in for you, he could send you to court for blinking an eye or for not having the blanket on your bed folded to suit him; and whenever you went to their court, you got a mark which meant that you sat at the dummy table for the rest of the week (you could talk in the mess hall), you got no Sunday show and no yard on a Saturday afternoon, which took care of your real privileges. You could have a couple of library books every week and subscribe to three or four



magazines, of course. But that was about all of your recreation, outside of smoking and chewing, and they didn't let you do too much of that. You couldn't even order cigarettes, or anything to eat, for years after I got there. So it was a pretty rough place. And I got a good sample of it right at the start. That first night was nothing compared to the others. Nobody came near me, excepting the man with the meals. I stayed right in that cell, which gave me plenty of chance to brood and remember, and which I know now was part of their treatment. They wanted to weigh you down with your misery, wanted to soften you up. I suppose they figured they could handle you easier, or maybe they enjoyed making you suffer. Anyhow, you lived in the middle of hell. You thought of nothing but what you had left and what lay ahead. I think the years must have piled into my cell like dirt being shoveled into a grave. I had to struggle to breathe a lot of the time. The tears hung in my mind like one of those drearying rains that seep out of the sky without seeming to end, and I was soaked with them inside. Finally, though, after eight days, and after I had been given some home-made tobacco-I believe the second day I was thrown a can of Velvet and some newspapers to roll my cigarettes with-I was called to the deputy warden's office. There, the captain of solitary told me to sit down in one of the chairs lined at the wall. In a room behind me, convicts were working over pictures and files. Before long, the head deputy beckoned to me from a doorway across. I walked into his office, where the warden, dressed in a gray suit and with eyebrows like a couple of caterpillars, leaned against the barred windows. I could feel their eyes boring at me. The warden said, "So you're Hankins?" I said, "I guess I am. I suppose you're Warden Sullivan." I could call both their names by that time. "Huh!" He was big-shouldered, maybe six feet, with an Irishman's face, and ears like a pair of scarred teacups. "You



guess. Don't you know?" He took two or three steps to the desk. "Fold your arms," he ordered. I folded them, thinking, "Another policeman." I didn't say anything. I had already found out that you couldn't say anything, that you had better not say anything. The warden glanced across at the deputy, whose red face looked as if it had hung too long among flies. Finally, the deputy warden picked up a pass on the desk and held it out to me. "The runner will show you out to Shop B." He took me back to the main office, then called for the trusty who was the runner. "Now go on out there and make it," he told me. "As long as you keep your nose clean, you'll get along around here. But remember, you're here on a tough rap, and it's up to you." I didn't know whether he was giving advice or making a threat, but I followed the runner, who kept about ten feet ahead of me. We walked down a corridor toward the dining hall and the kitchen, then turned out through the yard, where the racket of the twine factory beat at the air. A dirty yellow dust hung over the place. I could taste the sting of it as I got closer. I went through a door, climbed some iron steps, waving the pass at the guard in each shop the way I had been told. On the second floor-there were three floors in this plant, which was about a block long, with a powerhouse between it and another factory where they made farm machinery-in Shop B, the officer accepted my pass, beckoned the swamper and assigned me a hook on a rack for my clothes. The swamper flung me a pair of jeans and a jacket. I put them on, hung my other clothes on the hook. The guard waved his cane for me to come over to the stand, which was a platform, with a chair and desk on it, enclosed by a railing about three feet above the rest of the shop. He leaned his mouth close to my ear, which he had to do because of the din, and told me to wait there while he talked to the foreman. I could see the faces of the other inmates bent over the piles of



tow, or jute, as some called it, which ran through the machines on rolling aprons of spines to be piled on the floor or packed in spinning steel cans. The yellow dust, which was like feathers filling the air, lay shoe-top deep over most of the place. I took some cotton the swamper handed to me, and followed his motioned advice to stuff it in my ears. The screw and the foreman came over and briefed me on the rules. No talking to other inmates, they said. No communicating by signs, no laughing or fooling, and so forth and so on. "Any time you want to see me or leave your place on the floor," the guard told me, "you raise your hand." Then the foreman led me over to a machine that he called a breaker. He gave me a few minutes' instruction, told me that Shop B was one of three preparation rooms, as they called them, that the tow was started out through this breaker, put through a dozen other machines and sent on to another department. Then he put me to piling the stuff as it came out of the breaker. It was the roughest job in the shop, and I hadn't recovered from the beating I had got in the jail. I had got little medical care, either there or at Stillwater. My crushed ribs felt raw, and every time I would swing around to make that pile, it was just like sticking a knife through me. I went on as long as I could. It was cold, but the sweat was running down me. I put up my hand to the officer on the stand. He motioned for me to come up. I walked over there. "There is no question," I said. "I cannot stand this. I was discharged from the army, temporary total, which is no fault of yours. But I've now got my ribs broken. I'm all bunged up, and I'm going to have to get in better shape than this before I can stand a job like that." Well, I must say that he changed it. He put me to pulling those piles which weighed about four hundred pounds, helping another man. One of the other boys-Ill never forget him for it-saw the pain and misery I was in, and when the screw wasn't looking, he would hook his hook in and pull for me. Anyhow, I made it, did the best I could, till I was transferred to what you might call a better job in Shop H.


There, I was put on the spinners, where the tow went from the preparation room, and where it was twisted into twine and spun upon spools, after which it went to the ballers to be made into balls. The racket was even worse here. Without cotton tamped in your ears, you would go deaf, I imagine, within thirty days, if not punch drunk. As it was, your head would ring half the night. Well, by this time the other inmates knew who I was, and they commenced crawling from machine to machine. I was watching the action-for, of course, being that I was new, they were slipping me a can of tobacco or a bar of soap or a plug of chewing tobacco, and it was comical, you know, to see. They were trying to do me a favor. But they weren't allowed to give anything to me. So they would take those chances, crawling plumb across the shop to get the stuff to me. Well, I got a pretty good supply of the stuff, such as it was. By then, too, I was getting the lay of the prison. I had had a chance to talk to some of the guys during meals, and I began to see what kind of place I really was in. It wasn't a prison; it was a slave pen. The main purpose of the place was to turn out more twine, to make more farm machinery, to pile up the profits -they said they made a million dollars a year-and the men didn't count. The convicts were just so many mules to be whipped around to keep the plants going. And if they objected, if they squawked about the thirty cents



a day they were paid, or if they stopped work, the mark was put on them. They were branded as rebels and singled out to be broken. Many a poor devil had been ground into submission or shipped off to the criminal ward for the insane at St. Peter. The silent system and the noise alone were enough to wreck the nerves of most men. I've seen boys who couldn't move their heads without getting a mark, who never ate a meal except at the dummy table, who never got out in the yard, who spent months in third grade or in the hole and the lockup. This was what they called "riding" you. Anybody who got the officials down on him had to put up with that. And of course we always had the same work routine to go through, day in, day out--changing the spools on the spinners, cleaning off the machines, lining up to wash and to march in to meals. But I got along without going to what they called court. This court, I must say, was worse even than the one that had convicted me. Like I've said, you couldn't even defend yourself there. You were called into the deputy warden's office and lined up, facing the wall, with your arms folded. When all the men with marks had arrived, a deputy ordered you into the head deputy's office, where the chief deputy sat at the desk and a third deputy stood by the door. You were told to get your arms folded again. Then the deputy warden read off what you were accused of and waved you out of the place, and what I mean is, you didn't want to stop to argue about it, unless you wanted to end up in the hole. But some of the boys defended themselves just the same. Anyhow, I was getting along, or at least I thought I was. Why they had let me alone, I don't know, though it was probably because my case was more or less pending. Several developments had taken place. Some of the witnesses I've already mentioned had been exposed, and my friend Jack and DeVol's brothers had both been acquitted on all three of the charges. In fact, the county attorney had failed to get



another conviction. Lawrence DeVol and I-one guilty man

and one innocent man-were the only ones in prison for the crime. So John Kelly had asked for a new trial, which the judge promptly denied. He then filed notice of an appeal, and I want to say now that a more honest or conscientious man never walked on this earth. There was little money, of course. My sister and my family were trying to raise what they could back in Kentucky, but it was the time of the Depression, and time wouldn't wait. The appeal had to go forward, or I would lose out, and John Kelly didn't hesitate to use his own money. He didn't spare himself or his time. He checked witnesses, checked testimony, got the court records of the trial back in Paducah where this Mason claimed he had seen DeVol testify for me, and he got affidavits from all the people who appeared in the case, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that none of them was Lawrence DeVol; that he couldn't have testified for me. He showed that the old gun wasn't mine; that it couldn't have been used in the raid on the Menomonie bank. He gave many examples where the county attorney had violated the law, and where witnesses had contradicted themselves and each other. He pointed out how my partner and DeVol's brother had both been acquitted on the same evidence that had been used against me. Yet the state supreme court denied me a new trial, maintaining that this Mason's testimony had come in through the crossexamination of my attorney. Mr. Kelly was shocked. He put on his hat and went right to the justice who had written this opinion. "Mr. Justice," he said, "I am afraid you are mistaken when you say we brought out the testimony of this witness, Mason." "Mr. Kelly," the justice said, "that is not possible. It is right there in the transcript." "Justice Stone," John J. Kelly declared, "the transcript does not say that. There is nothing of the kind in the transcript." He then called for the record and showed the justice where Mason had been called up cold by the state; that it had been a complete surprise to the defense. The justice took off his



glasses, put them back on, stuttered a couple of times. He read that part of the transcript again. Finally, he apologized all over the place, saying he could not understand how he had made such a mistake. "I don't know," he said, "but this transcript is typed instead of printed, and it must be that it was misread. At any rate, it throws an entirely different light on the case. You are certainly entitled to a new trial. I suggest that you petition the court for a rehearing at once." Mr. Kelly did so. The rehearing was granted. The case was called in two weeks, or maybe a little longer. I don't remember now just how long it was, but we didn't have much of a wait. William Compton represented the state. Thirty minutes were set aside for the arguments. John Kelly began his appeal by pointing out the errors made by the court. Stone interrupted to apologize to him again before all of the justices. Then he tore into Compton and the county attorney's office, demanding to know why such evidence had been allowed to go in when they knew the court clerk couldn't corroborate it; why the trial had been conducted the way it had been; why the stuff on DeVol had been introduced. I guess he carried on for a good half hour. In fact, he used up all the time that had been assigned to the case, so that Mr. Kelly couldn't present any more of his argument-maybe that was what he was after-but the court left no doubt that I would get a new trial. It practically said so, and when they walked down the corridor, Compton told Kelly: "I guess there's no question that you got your new trial. When do you want to retry it?" John Kelly said, "I'd just as soon somebody else handled that. I've had about all I can take." And I know he had been through enough. He hadn't slept nights, worrying over the case. He had been threatened. People used to stop him on the streets, even used to come up to his office, demanding to know why he defended a gangster



like me. He met prejudice and opposition wherever he turned. But he hung in there, and the rehearing was an encouragement. It kind of made you feel that there might be some justice left in the state, although I was nervous about it. I couldn't figure out why a judge of the supreme court would make such a mistake. Still, it looked pretty good, and I began to let myself think of a new trial, and what I would do. Then, out of a clear sky, just when my hopes were the highest, the court denied me a retrial again. I felt like I had been hit in the head with a lead pipe. Mr. Kelly was ready to tear things apart. He headed for the state capital to get to the bottom of it. But he got no satisfaction. The supreme-court judge had apparently double-crossed him, had tongue-whipped the county attorney just for a show, and there wasn't anything we could do. We just had to take it. As John explained it to me, if they wouldn't pay attention to the evidence we had presented, they wouldn't heed anything. The only thing we could do was to go to the Pardon Board, though it didn't look hopeful. I didn't know. I was about ready to crawl off in a corner somewhere and give it all up. Then the prison officials moved in to put on the pressure, which left me grabbing the air. I couldn't understand the switch in their attitude, for they hadn't been bothering me. But I came to see that they must be working with Goff and the police, that it was part of their policy, that they had only been waiting until they were sure they had me; and it looked to me as if they had cut me out for the works. I could not stoop down to tie my shoe without going to court. I got marks for things I never thought of doing, for the most trivial things-staying too long in the toilet, gazing over the shop, not keeping step in the lines, leaving food on my plate, having a button on my uniform jacket unbuttoned. Two or three times they knocked me off for rebellious thoughts. But I tried to hold onto myself. I really dug in, determined to stay out of the hole and the lockup, with Mr. Kelly preparing my case for the



Pardon Board, because I knew that in there I wouldn't get any consideration whatever. So I dummied up. I put down my head like a bank mule leaning into the collar. Then one day I was sent down to the warehouse to help unload a couple of freight cars of jute, which was put up in bales taller, I would say, than a mighty big man. Some of them weighed six hundred pounds. You put them on a wheelbarrow. Well, I had never been used to such work. I noticed too that many of the boys were a lot stronger than I was, and I knew that they had plenty of men who could have handled the job without any trouble. But I didn't see what I could do. So I took the little short hook they gave me to help load the bales, pushed the truck up the iron ramp between the car and the dock, and when I backed out of the car, here came Japanese buggy, bale and all, and I had to run to keep out of the way. I was sweating blood about the third trip. I guess I fell once. Finally, I saw I couldn't take that, and I told the guard and the foreman that it was just too much for me there. They looked me over like I was a flagpole. The guard was a heavy-set man, with a snarling face and too many teeth for his mouth. "Oh, yeah," he said. "You'll do it or else." Well, I tried to be reasonable. I said I would do anything I could do. But he just got abusive. So I up and quit. I just walked off of this job. To hell with the Pardon Board; if I had to kill myself, a pardon wouldn't do me any good anyhow. I went back to the shop, changed my clothes, and started in for the cell blocks. I met the chief deputy warden halfway between the shops and his office. He said, "Where are you going?" "I can't stand that job," I said, "I guess I've quit." "What!" He threw his brakes on. "What are you tryin' to do, spoil a good record?" "The record is done spoiled," I said, "if you have to wheel those six-hundred-pound bales."



"Go over and wait in my office," he told me. I walked on, sat down in one of the chairs in the outer part of the office, not knowing what was going to happen. Nor did I care much. I wasn't going to take any more. The deputy warden came in. "Now then," he said. "What's this all about?" "You're riding me too hard," I said. He jerked up like somebody had taken him by the hair. "Huh!" he said. "Who did you say was riding you?" "Somebody is," I said. "There's hardly a day goes by that I'm not in your court." "You're not obeying the rules," he said. "And now you re refusing to work. How do you figure you can keep your nose clean around here by refusing to work?" "I don't figure I can keep it clean," I said. "There's no way on earth for me to keep it clean the way things are going." "Trying to be tough, hey," he said. "No," I said, "I'm not trying to be tough. I'm just trying to get a job I can do." "Well," he said, "you go back on out to that warehouse for a few days, and I'll see what I can do." "You mean go back for a few months or a few years." I knew by then what it was like around there; that his promise was only a come-on. "If you want to give me a different job, you can give it to me today." He jerked himself up again, his red face turning purple. "I'm running this place. I'll say when you get a transfer." "Give it to me today," I said, "or lock me up." I had made up my mind. "Okay!" He wheeled through the door like a bull charging a fence. "Get his clothes off him!" he shouted to the captain of solitary. I started back for the hole.


That was, I believe, in 1934. I had been in prison more than a year anyhow. But they didn't throw me in the hole. They locked me in what they called a receiving cell, which was a cell on the ground floor like the one I had been put in when I first came, and you could smoke there, and you got your meals, such as they were. You could also have reading material. But I would just like for people to try to imagine what it is like being locked in a cell day after day, month after month. You never get out, except for a bath once a week, and they hate to let you wash then. You can't see anyone. You can't talk. You live with the walls and the bars of your cell, with a stingy view of the corridor and the black glass and steel of the windows. If you got up to the door, you could see a little bit further. But not very much, and in a couple of months, your eyes got so that they wouldn't adjust to distance or depth. You were like an owl trapped in the light. The worst thing, though, was the monotony and the thumping swarm of your thoughts-lock a man up with his grief and despair, and you will kill him eventually, at least kill his mind -and you couldn't run away from your thoughts, from your mind. Even if you could read all the time, even if your reading matter didn't give out, which it usually did, it got so your thoughts would clutter the pages, until you finally had to throw



the book or magazine to one side. A lot of the boys got to where they just couldn't read. And I would see them when I went by for a bath, plodding the floors of their cells, with their faces hard-set or twist-smiled with a dream or a memory. Some of them would whisper or laugh to themselves. Others would never move off their chairs. One colored boy used to crouch on top of his toilet and cry and moan like a lost soul, till they hauled him off to the D.W.-the Detention Ward-where you were held till you were called in by the "nut board" and shipped off to the criminal ward of the St. Peter Hospital, and plenty of the men were sent there. A lot of them went who were not crazy, because the prison authorities wanted to get rid of them for one reason or another. Maybe I was lucky that I didn't go at that tinie. Anyway, I got pretty low. I walked the floor of my cell or lay on the bunk after the bell had rung out the lights, thinking about the supreme-court decision, asking myself what I could do. The Pardon Board, I felt sure, would do nothing for me; would hold like the courts had. I was a gambler, they always had said, was carrying a gun, which seemed to answer all their doubts as to my innocence, and it did no good for John Kelly to insist that my past had nothing to do with the charges against me. So I waited for the break I had spoken of when I was sentenced. But it didn't come, and it didn't come. I could see the weeks and the months stretching on into years. I began to lose sleep, and I lay on that straw mattress, listening to the coughs and groans of the men, to the thump of the toilets, the moan of the corridors. The drip-drip of a faucet leaking somewhere was like a miner's pick driving into my brain. Every half hour a guard shuffled past in canvas-soled sneakers. About midnight, the night crew shambled by and the door levers crashed, and I would wait for the footsteps to die away on the slab, for the iron thud of the doors and the clatter of the keys in the locks, and hell seemed to grin at me out of the shadows. Tears waited there. I would hear the lone whistle of the freight which crossed the river west of the prison, and I would squeeze my eyes shut and dig my fingers into the mat-



tress, while the country spread away in the sound, and all the places and things I had known stood against the edge of the sky. The drip of the faucet went on. The bars laced a pattern over my bed. I could hear my own breathing. Finally, I would roll out of the bunk and fumble around for my buzzer to light up a cigarette. (A buzzer is a piece of emery stone and a steel button with a string through it, and you spun it on the stone to light punk, which you made by charring a bandanna handkerchief.) And the smoke would ease me a little, though I had to watch out for the screw, unless I could get him to give me a light, which some of them would. Many a night I've smoked one cigarette after another. The day I received word that my older brother, who was then chief of police of Hazelcrest, Illinois, had died in bed, I didn't stop smoking. I wore a gulch in the cement, walking, I think. I had lived with him a good share of my life. When I wasn't more than a boy, I had ridden with him in the "tobacco war" back in Kentucky. I had held off the vigilantes after he had been shot, and it was a hard blow to take. I remember how I hung to the bars, staring at the black windows, trying to see through and beyond them to the hills we had known at home. I thought maybe his spirit might be riding there now. I heard a hound dog bay far away. The clouds seemed to hang low over the mine tipples and the Pennyrile River. I walked on through the rest of the day and the night. There was no end, no place to get away to. But the next morning, the warden and deputy warden stopped at my cell and offered me a new job. They put me up in Shop C. It was a bad shop, called the worst one there, but I did get a job I was able to handle. I was watching ends, as they call it. Whenever there was a break, I would splice it, keep the jute going through the machine, and I felt better working, with less time to think. They didn't bother me very much either, at least not right away, and my sister and niece had been up to see me, had talked things over with Kelly, and things were going ahead for a try at the Pardon Board. Maybe something would



come of it, I thought. Anyhow, I tried to make myself believe this, and I would think back over the case, over the false testimony exposed by John Kelly, and it seemed to me that the.Board would have to do something. Then one day in the early part of 1935, I got a pass for the visiting room, and while I was changing my clothes, I tried to figure out who wanted to see me, for my sister had gone back to Kentucky, and Kelly had been out a few days before. No one else would be likely to come, unless it was the law. But I buttoned my coat, waved my pass at the screw, and walked across the yard to the main building. In the visiting room, the guard scribbled his initials on the back of the pass, and told me to sit down at one of the long tables which were lined in two rows along the glass walls. I pulled out a chair and put my cap on another. Further down, at one of the tables, a convict was talking to what looked like his wife and his mother, while a couple of children twisted around in their seats and looked at the cell halls on either side of us. I heard the first of the gates clang out in front. Then the second one banged, and a man about my own age came into the room. He spoke to the screw before he came down the table toward me. I studied his face, which was thin. He didn't look like a policeman. "Are you Hankins?" he asked. "I am," I said. "I'm Jack Mackay," he said, "of the Associated Press." "I'm glad to know you, Mr. Mackay," I said. "But what do you want out of me?" "Do you know a man by the name of Jess Doyle?" he said. "I never heard of him," I said.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "Of course I'm sure," I said. "What's this all about anyhow?" I was suspicious. "You're not allowed daily papers in here, I guess," he said. "That's not all we're not allowed," I said. "And you're positive you never heard of Jess Doyle?" "I just told you."



"Well, the FBI just arrested him," he said. "And he has confessed to the robbery of the Third Northwestern Bank, has completely exonerated you, and named the six others who took part in it with him." "What!" I said. I couldn't believe it; the glass walls of the place seemed to light up all of a sudden; I felt a shiver like a spider crawling over my skin. "Are you telling me the truth?" "I am," he said. "I don't know." I sat down again, just realizing that I had risen up out of the chair. "It hardly seems possible after all I've been through." "Well, it's the truth," he said. He then called for the man who had pleaded guilty to the crime, Lawrence DeVol, the only guilty man who had ever gone to Stillwater on it. He wouldn't talk. He said it was a lie. Mackay pulled out the newspaper which headlined Jess Doyle's confession. DeVol looked at it, then looked over at me and Mackay. "Okay," he said. "Doyle has it right." And he opened up and told exactly how the job was pulled off, and how he had led it. He cleared me again. He also told Kelly, when he came out later, that the county attorney had sent two of his assistants to Stillwater to tell him that Doyle's statement was a trick to get him to talk, and to keep his mouth shut. In other words, it seemed that Mr. Goff wanted to stop another confession. He didn't want two men to tell the same story. From there on, of course, the investigation started. Things began breaking. My sister hurried back from Kentucky, while my brothers there tried to raise all the money they could. I received a letter from the secretary of the Pardon Board, saying he was sorry that such a miscarriage of justice had taken place, and that it would be only six or seven weeks until the Board met. They might even call a special meeting before then. But



if they didn't, I wouldn't have long to wait. He enclosed a pardon application blank, which I filled out and mailed. In the meantime, John Kelly was busy. He got together all the new evidence to incorporate into the brief he was already preparing. He got retractions from several more witnesses. He pressed for the special hearing. But we had to wait for the regular one, and by that time, the pressure had been put on me again. From the day the confession was made, as a matter of fact, the pressure was put on me stiffer and stiffer in Stillwater. I mean, it was put on me in a way that I could hardly take it. But I was determined, knowing that for six weeks I could mighty nigh take anything. So I would never think about getting a Saturday afternoon out in the yard, because I would get sent to court for things I had no intention of doing. It was plain that word had gone out to ride me again. I went to the warden and the deputy warden about the trouble, and they promised to look into it right away. But I'd go back to work, and things would just be worse. They just made it worse. And I would have to put my head down and slog on, like a slave with a rope over his shoulder tugging a load. Each night I would mark the day off the calendar that hung on my cell wall. I would count the ones which were left, trying to see ahead to the meeting. What was going to happen? Would they really do anything for me? I didn't know what to expect, and the rumors that came in on the grapevine didn't help much. The old heads among the convicts advised me not to go overboard. "You're in Minnesota," they said, "where it's ten times harder for an innocent man to get out than it is for a guilty man." Well, I knew what the law had already done to me, and I was afraid they were right. Yet I had to believe that justice existed. I argued with myself, argued with the other inmates, when I wasn't at the dummy table with a mark, that the board couldn't ignore the evidence the FBI had turned up, and I didn't see how it could either. The law knew the seven men



now who had taken part in the robbery-had five of them in jail. How could it continue to hold me? I waited. Finally-it seemed like a year, though it was only six weeks-the case came up, was continued, and then taken under advisement. If I recall correctly, Governor Olson was out of the state or was in a hospital. Anyhow, there was no decision. The pressure and the tension continued. The next meeting was three months away. I heard stories, too, that the governor had been stricken with cancer, and they were soon in the papers. In fact, he died before my case could be considered again, and I saw that I faced another delay or a denial, and that whoever took over the governorship would want a chance to look into the case. I tried to resign myself to it. The noisy grind of the twine shop, the marching, the trips to the deputy's office for court, and the nights without sleep filled out the weeks for me until the next meeting. At the following hearing, the Board agreed to appoint the head of the state Crime Bureau, Melvin Passolt, to look into the case, and he left nothing undone. He made a real investigation. He went all-out to see the people who knew anything about the case. He went to Alcatraz Island, interviewed Karpis, interviewed the Barkers, who had all been named by Doyle. He got a statement from Alvin Karpis, which is now in the Pardon Board files, giving the detailed facts as to how they had robbed the bank. He got the same kind of signed confession from Lawrence DeVol. He got a detailed confession from Jess Doyle. He got the evidence which had been unearthed by Willis Donelly, an attorney from Menomonie, Wisconsin, who had defended my partner. In the meantime, however, the FBI had informed the county attorney that they were holding Jess Doyle, and that they had no charges against him. (It's well to remember that only one man and myself were in prison for this crime.) But Goff told the government that he didn't want Doyle, that he had nothing on him, that he had the man he wanted. Doyle was sent



out of the state after confessing to his part in three murders

and a bank robbery, and turned over for a smaller crime, which he had committed three or four years before down in Nebraska. Goff, therefore, seemed willing to square off for one innocent man and one guilty man. Apparently he didn't want Doyle, because to put him on trial would show and prove what he had done to me. His political career was worth more than a dozen lives like mine, to his way of thinking.


The case dragged on nearly a year. Melvin Passolt finished his work, then advised the Board of my innocence, as the records will show. But nothing was done. There were further continuances, and it was plain that something was very much wrong. I could tell that every kind of pressure was being put on the Board, that Goff and his connections were grabbing at every straw they could reach, and to make matters worse, my father took to his bed. (In prisons, they always make sure the bad news is rushed to you at once; the good news they hold back as long as they can.) I prowled the floor of my cell from dusk until bell-time. I tried to keep hold of my hope. The whistles of the trains that crossed the river downstream were like ghosts crying past. And I would listen, back again among the hills of western Kentucky, back among the tobacco barns and the coal mines. I remembered the good times we had had there. I thought of my father, of his happiness when Jess Doyle had exonerated me, of the neighbors and kinfolks who had rejoiced with him, who had carried the newspapers to him, all of them seeming to want to bring him the good news. Now, though, he was sick. The waiting and the continuances had taken their toll. He had looked for me to be home right away after I had been cleared. He waited, waited for the hearing which was soon to come up. He paced the house night after night, anxious to meet the



son who had been accused of such a crime. He had always worshiped me and I had him. The first hearing was held and the case taken under advisement. He continued to walk the floor, waiting, wondering, talking, wanting me to come home. The weeks slipped into months. He lost his taste for his food. He would stand on the porch, watching the road and the hilltops. Well, he began falling away. Shortly, in the spring, I believe it was May, he took to his bed. Still he expected to see me. Any time he would hear a foot on the steps, he would cut his eyes to the door. But I never was able to meet him. He lay there. He never did, to my knowledge, ask any personal question about me. But they had notified another brother, who was late getting there, and when he walked in, he recognized him, then said, kind of like crying, "Do you think he'll get here?" Nor did he live very much longer, and my sister called up the prison, asking that the word be broken to me in the mildest way possible. So a pass was sent to the shops for me to come to the deputy's office. I changed my clothes, wondering what they wanted with me. Was it my father, or was I just being called on the carpet again? I cut across the yard, away from the noise and dust. The sky was bright, I remember, and the clouds were like tin dishpans brimming over with sun. But the gray walls and the gun towers stood in the same shadow. I felt it closing about me when I stepped into the corridor. The front gates ahead, beyond the rotunda, were like a bitter reminder. I turned into the deputy's office, where the captain of solitary told me to sit down. The typewriters chattered like monkeys in the room right behind me. Faces, going by in the hallway, peered in with a kind of chalky despair. I turned my cap in my hands, feeling the sweat come out in my palms. An iron door banged back in the hole. I heard the chief deputy warden's voice there. He walked in after a moment. "Hankins." He didn't look at me. "Come into my office." I followed him.



"We just had a call from your sister." He paused, and it was the first time I had ever noticed any real kindness about him. He turned to look out at the yard. "Your father passed away early this morning." "What?" I spoke without knowing what I was saying. "You can't be telling the truth?" "I'm afraid I am," he said. "She phoned not thirty minutes ago. "I don't know," I said. "It don't seem like it can be true, like it ought to be true." I didn't want to believe it. I couldn't let myself believe it. I had always wanted to tell him that I had had nothing to do with that robbery, and now it was too late. I could feel my fingers twisting and twisting my cap. "I guess I had better sit down." "Sure," he said. "You don't have to go back to the shop right away. "Maybe I could have a couple of hours in my cell?" I asked. "Okay," he said. He told the captain of solitary, who sent me into the cell hall, and the captain there gave me a light. I took the blazing twist of the paper, held it to a cigarette, and sank into the chair. But I couldn't sit still. There is nothing worse than the desertion or death of somebody close to you when you are behind bars. There is no way to resolve it, no way to make up for it, and the feeling of loss is like drowning in all the tears in the world, because you are already lost. You are already half-beaten. Your ties with the outside are your only connection with hope, and you know that when one is broken, you can never replace it. I knew that I could never again find anyone like my father. I knew that part of my self had died with him. I plodded the five steps to the front of the cell, plodded back to the washbowl, stumbled on through the two hours. I don't know how far I walked or what my thoughts were. But I felt as if I had walked back along all the years of my life, and when the pass came for me to return to the shop, I didn't know whether I could go any further. What was the use? I picked up



my cap, buttoned my coat, from habit I guess, and headed back to the deputy's office. "Will you call the shop officer or write him a note," I asked the chief deputy there, "and tell him to make it as easy as possible? I don't know if I can work or not." He said he would, and I carried the note in my hand and gave it to the guard on the stand. The evening passed finally. When night came, when the lights had gone out, it was like staring into the heart of the future. The moans of the men sleeping around me seemed to be all of my own.

But I had to go on. Here I had lost my oldest brother and my father, my case seemed even further from a solution, and I was still in Shop C, still watching ends. I'll never understand how I got through the first weeks, how I survived the next four or five months, as a matter of fact, for word came to me the same year, in the fall, that my favorite brother had died, and a few days later I received a card from the Board: "Denied." It was as if God himself had turned against me. I stared across the roofs of the factories at the sun going down back of the hills. The dark mounds of the trees, the scattered houses and barns were like graves in the evening. I thought of the fight my sister had made, of all the information and evidence we had run down-we had worked, she had labored, she had frozen her feet walking the streets-to show up the underhandedness, the injustice, and the lies which had marked the case from the beginning, and it didn't seem possible that the Board could have refused me. But there was no disputing the card in my hand. My sister confirmed it, moreover, when she arrived in a few days, and she told me too how they had used one excuse after another, how she would answer one question, only to have others brought up: "We'd like information on this, Mrs. Lowery . .. we'd like information on that."

Nevertheless, she was determined to win. Lawyers, throwing



up their hands, saying we had enough evidence to clear ten men, told her she was fighting against a stone wall. "We can't move," they said. "They won't even consider the facts." And the Board wouldn't. It had simply passed over the evidence, had ignored Passolt's report, had fallen back on the excuses given by the state courts. She returned to Kentucky, therefore, and contacted everybody from the governor on down, businessmen, professional men, doctors, county attorneys. She asked them for character letters, giving my background from my boyhood. Many of them had known me since I had been a child, and at least seventy-five or eighty of the leading people in western Kentucky answered my sister's request. But again the dirty work came into play. The letters went to the wastebasket. The Board members never saw them, and the secretary, William Lamson, acknowledged this several years later, during a hearing which has been called the "long interview" at Stillwater, when the Board talked to me for seven hours. "Well," he told the governor then, "there were so many of them, and they all came at once, that it looked like a trick." But my sister had informed him that she had waited to mail the letters all at the same time. Moreover, Lamson must have known there was no trickery involved. It seems that he was just doing his part to cover up for the officials who had helped frame me. He showed that in the letters he wrote me over the years and in the statements he made to my lawyers. He forgot the miscarriage of justice, about which he was concerned when Jess Doyle had first cleared me. And he wasn't the only one either. As the case dragged on, more and more people were drawn into the plot to keep me in prison. Once a man had become compromised, he had to use every trick, had to enlist all the aid he possibly could for justification. The Pardon Board itself was probably guilty of that after it had denied me. And the county attorney and the prison officials were always in there.



Maybe at first, they only thought to force me to accept some kind of compromise which would save their hides and their faces. But with each new development, they grew more desperate and panicky. They became more deeply involved. They apparently even tried to keep the evidence hidden. DeVol, for example, was shipped to the criminally insane ward at the St. Peter State Hospital (from which he later escaped), probably to keep him from testifying for me at the Board, and I know for a fact that two women witnesses in the Bremer kidnapping trial sent word to Ed Goff, offering to tell how the holdup was planned in their apartment, who the participants were, and how it grew out of gang rivalry in the Twin Cities. He ignored them, however. He never went near them. He was still willing to square off for one innocent man and one guilty man. And I don't know how many hearings the Stillwater officials monkey-wrenched for me. But they had a rule which prevented anyone in the lockup from seeing the Board. The members would meet; I would be granted a hearing, and even be notified that I was going to be interviewed at the prison; then just two or three days before the governor, the attorney general and the chief justice were to come to Stillwater, I was usually thrown in solitary confinement. There I stayed till the meeting was over. Then I was again put back in the shops, and I would stumble along till the next hearing, plodding the galleries, sweating it out in the twine plant, putting up with the racket and the bullying guards. Every time I turned my head or bent over to tie my shoe, one would growl at me, it seemed like. This went on and on. Warden Sullivan died, and the chief deputy warden took over his job. But it didn't make any difference. If anything, matters just became worse. I appealed to the Board of Control which was supposed to be in charge of all state institutions. I had my attorney talk to the warden. I even changed lawyers, which was one of my biggest mistakes. However, it only brought me more heat, and the guards let me know that they would teach



me to go over their heads. I didn't answer them back, but I didn't forget. During this period, too, I lost another one of my brothers, although I was prepared for it. To make it harder, my sister had to take over the care of his children, which left her with little time for my case. I got so that I expected each day to bring me further bad news. And the strain was beginning to tell. I could see I was breaking. Something was happening. My health was giving way, and my heart was going wild nearly-up to 120 pulse. Finally-I believe that was in 1938-I asked the guard in the shop to put me down for sick call, though I didn't expect much. In fact, I knew I wouldn't get any help if the head doctor happened to be on at the hospital, for he cooperated with the warden, and you had to have a broken leg or a fever of a hundred and five to get any treatment. Otherwise, you went back to work with a handful of pills. But the pass came for me right after dinner, and I lined up with the other inmates who wanted to talk to the doctor, down in Shop G, on the ground floor. We waited half an hour, maybe, for everybody to get there. Then the guards-there were two generally-rapped their canes on the floor, and we marched out the door, turned at the pavement and went past the powerhouse, where we were joined by another line from the farm-machinery plant and the foundry. There, we swung by the dining hall and the greenhouse, climbing the steps to the hospital, which was set on a knoll shaded by trees. Inside, the officer in charge waved us to the wall. "More fake-a-loos," he said out of one side of his mouth. "Yeah, fake-a-loos. They wouldn't work on the outside, and now they hate to work inside. What's the matter with you?" He started the first man in line, a newcomer, into the drug room, where the doctor sat at a desk. "Don't you like making twine?" Some of the inmates tittered, and a few gave it back to him. He paid no attention-just kept up his insults. The line moved ahead. I reached the door, and there recognized young Dr. Linner. When I got to talk to him, he told me to wait in an ad-



joining office, and as soon as sick call was over, he listened to my heart with his stethoscope. I could feel it pound in my ears. "You had better stay up here," he said after he had finished. "But I don't know how long we can keep you. I guess you know you don't stand too well with some people around here." "I'm finding it out every day," I said. "We'll have to put you in a quiet cell," he said. "They'd never hold still if I put you in a ward." "Okay," I said. The guard came in then and told me to strip.


The quiet cells were located in a separate wing of the hospital, away from the wards, and each had a barred door that was locked with a padlock. But they were usually left open during the day. The men could smoke, too, and they could talk, if they didn't get caught. You were away from the racket as well and got better food, all of which made for less tension. So I had a chance to relax. I didn't have to worry about marks either, or about the guards riding me, and I began to think I might make it. Then, they brought a boy in from the detention ward, and locked him in the cell opposite mine. He was doubled over with pain, was to be operated on the next morning for ulcers, and he had had some trouble with one of the inmate nurses who was an ex-policeman, and who had the run of the place, although he had a life sentence for first-degree murder. This nurse dominated the hospital. He ran it. The kid had worked under him, and had had a fight with him. Maybe I should just say that the nurse was a queer, and the kid wouldn't go for it, and he threw the ex-copper and broke his leg. As a result, the boy was fired out of the hospital, after which he was put in the foundry. When he wrote the Board of Control to object, he was clapped in the hole, then locked



up in the detention ward for six months. At the end of that time, he began turning white and falling away, and they informed him that he had ulcers. He was afraid of the operation because of the nurse. He didn't trust the head doctor either. He knew what he and the nurse were capable of, what had happened to other inmates who had written the Board of Control, and he was sure that he had been marked. But I told him that if he had to have it, he should go ahead; that he couldn't live with those ulcers. He really asked my advice, though I wish now he hadn't. Anyway, they wheeled him up to the operating room the next day. They brought him back and put him in the same cell. He came out from under the ether moaning and writhing. There was froth on his lips. He cried out that he couldn't stand it. "I don't know what they did to me, but something is burning me up. There is no way on earth for me to stand it." "You can stand it," I said. "Take it. You can stand it." But I could see his face-the way it was drawn. He was sitting up now, holding his belly, rocking and swaying. The bed jumped on the floor. He kept saying over and over. "I can't stand it! I can't stand it!" He grabbed for the bandage, then ripped it off his body. His intestines dropped out in a wad as big as a gallon bucket. "For Christ's sake!" I said. I could hear running feet in the corridor. Then I saw the expoliceman nurse pull up at the corner. He walked down to the boy's cell, paused an instant, looking him over. "You son of a bitch," he said. He shoved in and smacked the kid in the mouth, hit him again, bounced his head on the back of the bed, then hurried out. The boy lay there a moment, panting and gasping. The head doctor's voice rose from the desk, down the bisecting hall. The kid struggled to a sitting position and rolled out on the floor, clutching his guts. He heaved the bed around, wedged it between the wall and the door which opened inside. The doctor



was shouting now, approaching the corner. The boy crawled back in the bed just as the doctor and nurse got to the cell. "What are you trying to do, Rath?" The doctor shook the bars. "You won't get in here again," the kid said. "We won't, won't we!" The doctor pushed at the door, which didn't budge an eighth of an inch. "Okay," he said. "You can lie there, and you'll lie there from now on before I sew you up." He turned and stamped off. But when he had gone home, Doctor Linner came around and promised the boy that, if he would take the barricade down, he would sew up the wound and give him a new nurse. He kept his word too. He sewed the kid up. He put a different nurse on, and the boy got along fine until the head doctor heard about it the following day. Then hell really broke loose. He stormed down to the kid's cell, fired the new nurse, and put the ex-copper back. He shouted, "I'll show you who is running this hospital!" He ordered the boy eagle-spread, tied hand and foot to the bed. The kid lay there, tugging and straining. I could see the twisted flush of his face, and hear the laughter of the doctor and nurse. The gray light, creeping in from outside, flowed into the shadows, as if to hide from the boy's moans. He cried out now and then. He begged for anything that would ease him. The day ground into evening, with his screams mounting and his pain tearing at everyone within earshot. The whole place was on edge. Finally, after the lights had gone out, an officer and the ex-policeman stopped by the kid's cell. They shouted at him, then took the padlock off the door. They walked in. The nurse said, "I'll learn you to write the Board of Control and put heat on this place." He slugged the boy in the mouth, and let me say that he was hit at least fifty times in the face. Blood was everywhere. I turned sick. I couldn't even look. A voodoo quiet settled over



the hospital, and the dim glow from the scattered bulbs in the hallway seemed to choke out. I glanced around just as the ex-copper and the guard started away. The nurse saw me, then swung up to my cell. "I don't want to hear a peep out of you either," he said. "Yeah," I said. "Who are you?" "I'll show you who I am," he said, and he spit in my face. Well, I was weak; I could hardly stand on my feet; but I made a lunge for the bars. He jumped out of reach, his teeth

showing in his dog face. "You dirty rat," I said. "Open this door, and I'll tear you apart." He wheeled down the corridor. "You heard me!" I shouted. "And if you're in this hospital when I'm unlocked in the morning, I'll stomp your guts all

over that floor, even if the warden is standing beside you. Nobody spits in my face and gets away with it." I shook the iron door. But he was gone round the corner. The hallway was still. I searched the cell for a weapon, for I was determined to work on him. At about two o'clock, though, the kid went into a coma, and the ex-copper commenced packing his stuff, getting ready to transfer to one of the cell blocks. After he left, a civilian nurse came in to look at the boy, and the doctor was called. The warden, too, showed up before the hospital had opened. But the boy never regained consciousness, and the warden didn't even bother to look at him. He came straight to my cell. I felt the brown bulge of his eyes, saw his red face. I sat up in the bed. A food cart rattled by in the corridor. 'What's the matter with you and the nurse?" the warden wanted to know. I spoke no words right away; I didn't say anything; I just pointed five feet across the hall where the kid lay, with his eyes walled, dying. "There's your matter," I said. "That was done, and done with



your approval. If I ever live to get out of here, I'll inform that boy's mother of these facts." That afternoon I was returned to the cell block, put back into the twine factory to work, and the following Saturday out in the yard I was told by some boys who were supposed to be in the know that the heat was really on me, and that I had better get my people or my attorney out there at once. "You saw too much and said too much when they killed that kid in the hospital," they said.


By then, my brother's wife had gotten a job and had taken over the care of her children, and my sister had the time to go ahead with the fight. She had already been busy, as a matter of fact, getting my organization, the Disabled Veterans, to take a hand in the case. So I wrote her to come. She hurried up from Kentucky. When she arrived, the warden assigned an officer to listen in and report on our conversation. But I didn't let it intimidate me. I told her just what had happened. I also asked her to have an autopsy performed on my body if I should die, and to get a lawyer out there right away. She promised she would. "I'll see Kelly first," she said, "then talk to Owen Galvin, the D.A.V. lawyer. But you keep a hold of yourself. Don't you go making things worse." "I'll do the best I can," I said. "But whatever I do won't make any difference. They'll do their worst anyhow." And I wasn't wrong. The warden had me locked up before she could get either lawyer down there to see me, and he wouldn't give me a reason. They just called me in and turned the key on me, which was part of the prison psychology. Keeping you ignorant was meant to add to your worry. When Mr. Galvin arrived, though, he demanded an explanation. He wanted to know why they kept a man in the lockup who had an army record like mine, who had spent four years in government hos-



pitals, and who was supposed to be innocent. It looked funny to him, he declared. Well, the warden was kind of taken off guard, for he was not used to having anyone challenge him. His red face got even redder. He sputtered and hemmed and finally said that I had talked and tried to make a break out of the hospital. The lawyer looked at him, uncertain whether to believe him or not, then came on in to the visiting room. "Your lodge has sent me down here," he said, after he had shaken my hand, "to see what I can do for you. But how do you expect me to help you if you are trying to break out of the hospital?" "What are you doing," I said, "kidding me?" "No," he said, "I'm not kidding you. I've just been told that by the warden, not ten minutes ago." "Is that a fact?" I said. "That is a fact," he said. "Would you call the warden?" I said. "Why, sure," he said. He spoke to the officer in charge of the visiting room and asked if he would phone the warden and have him come in. The man said he would. In a few minutes, the warden appeared and walked down to the end of the table where we were sitting. He said, "Mr. Galvin, do you want to see me?" "No," the attorney said, "I don't particularly want to see you, but Leonard here wants to talk to you." I turned to the warden. "What's this I hear," I said, "that you've told Mr. Galvin here that I tried to make a break out of the hospital and had talked it from time to time?" He jerked up his belly and frogged his eyes at me. "I don't have to answer no inmate's question," he said. "Well, that ain't the thing about it," I said. "I'm here, and all the reports from law-enforcement agencies point to the fact that I'm innocent, which I am, and I don't like to have a rap



like that told to my attorney when I never had a thought of such a thing." Before I had the words out, he called and waved to a couple of his deputies who stood out in the rotunda. "Stop this visit right here," he ordered. "Throw him in the hole." They grabbed me and hustled me out of the room. Galvin got to his feet, then started to protest. The warden stalked off. But his strategy backfired. Galvin came down with my sister a day or two later and forced the warden to remove me from the hole. He insisted that I be given a decent job, furthermore. So I was put to work in the laundry, and Mr. Galvin began at once for another try at the Pardon Board, though he said, like the others, that it looked like the cards had been stacked on me; that people were taking a hand in the case who should have had nothing to do with it. And he got a sample of the pressure as he prepared the petition for a rehearing. Politicians, representatives of the bankers' association, friends of the judge and the county attorney, and citizens with a hatred for anyone who ran afoul of the law beat a path to his door or called him on the phone, demanding to know why he was fighting for a professional gambler, a man who, if he wasn't guilty of that particular bank robbery, must be guilty of plenty of crimes. But, like Kelly, Galvin couldn't be scared or persuaded. He had seen enough, he said, to be convinced of my innocence, and playing cards wasn't a felony. He went ahead with his preparations. He combed all the records. He talked to everyone he could reach that had had anything to do with the matter, and he and my sister went to see Melvin Passolt, who had never given up on the case, and who had kept fighting for me even after he had lost his job as head of the Crime Bureau when a different administration took over control of the state. He wasn't content to sit tight, either, with confessions and evidence. He and Passolt went to work on the opposition, and Passolt did succeeed in winning over Bill Compton, the assistant county attorney, who had had a hand in my prose-



cution. In fact, he brought the man down to see me one day. "Well, Leonard, he said, after he had introduced Compton and the handshaking was over, "we finally got him down here. Here he is. Now it's you and him." Mr. Compton smiled. "I guess we'll get along," he said; then he added to me, "I am in a position to find out some things myself, and I now know you are innocent." "Well . . ." I kind of laughed. "Didn't you know that when

you tried me?" "No," he said, "I didn't. You must remember that others prepared most of the evidence." "Didn't you ever talk to Sig Couch and Johnny Albrecht?" I asked. "They were the detectives who had protested my frame-up. They knew I was innocent, and when they squawked about it to Ed Goff and Meehan, they were threatened with the loss of their jobs." "They never talked to me," he said. "But that's water over the dam. I'm for you now, and that's why I'm down here. I just want to make sure you're not going out and try to get any revenge. "Mr. Compton," I said. "if you're speaking of revenge the way

I think you are, of my getting a gun and going out looking for somebody, that's out. But I do feel that the people of Minnesota and the country ought to know what has happened in this case. It might help others from going through the same thing." I think that about covered the conversation. But it was encouraging, and I went back to the laundry, wondering whether the opposition had started to break. I could almost believe again in my chances. I was cheered further when the Board granted me a rehearing, and right after the meeting, my sister hurried out to tell me that I was going to be interviewed at the prison. It looked as if things were going my way, though I didn't let myself hope. I remembered what had happened before. I was sure that the warden would try to spoil it for me. I kept an eye out for any sign of his dirty work. Then, suddenly, a few days before the board was due to



arrive, he had me in for a talk. He greeted me like a lost friend, and waved me into a chair. There was a smile all over his face. "How are you getting along?" he said. "I don't know," I said. I wondered what he was working up to. "All right, I guess." "Well, it looks pretty good for you anyhow," he said, "But you want to be careful now. Don't mess it up." "Me mess it up?" I said. "Well," he said, "you might say something you shouldn't, and I want you to watch me. I'll be sitting back behind the Board. If anything comes up that I don't think is good for you or the place, I'll close my fist." "Yeah?" I said. "Then what?" "Change the conversation," he said. "They won't see me; I'll be sitting behind the Board." I thought, well, after all the torture, all the underhand work, now you re coming over. Or was he? I wouldn't trust him. But I figured it was best to go along with him. I didn't want to be put in the lockup again, although I knew that I was liable to be in spite of the show he had put on. For all I could tell, he was only trying to soften me up. I went back to work, prepared for the worst. I walked a chalk-line till the day of the interview. And when the pass came from the Board, I still half expected to be stopped in the corridor. I wasn't, however. I was let through the first set of gates, nodded toward a row of chairs in the mail censor's office, off which a door opened into the Board room. There, the governor, the chief justice and the attorney general sat at a long table, with the Pardon Board secretary. The warden occupied a seat close to the wall. I kind of studied the faces, then took the chair that was offered me. "How are you?" the governor asked. "In my shoes," I said. "You're bound to be nervous. But I would like to tell you, gentlemen, that I am going to shoot straightforward facts. I know that if I lie to you in any way whatsoever, you're not going to believe anything I may say.



And I gave them the story just as it happened. I answered their questions. They sent out for some records. One hour ticked by, then another. At five o'clock, the whistle blew. Two of the members started to get up. The governor said, "Just a minute. I am impressed by this story. If this man has been in here this many years, innocent, we can eat later, provided he can be fed in his cell." He turned to the warden. "What about it, Warden?" "I guess he can be," he replied, pretty reluctantly. "All right," Governor Stassen said. "Now then, Leonard, I've had people tell me that you didn't need to rob banks, that you could make more with a deck of cards than most bandits could holding up banks. What about that?" "I can handle the cards," I said. "Will you give us a demonstration?" he asked. "I don't know why not," I said. He called for a deck to be brought into the room, and I broke the seal on it, shuffled it, put the freeze on it and shoved it across to Stassen to cut. I dealt five cards to each man at the table. They turned them over. They ranged from a king-full to a high straight, but I showed them four aces. The eyes at the table were all turned at me. The governor laughed. The warden got up from his chair. "I don't believe it," the attorney general said. "I'll give you a royal flush," I said. I stacked the discard, shuffled the deck and put the freeze on it again. The chief justice cut it. I gave Burnquist a diamond royal flush, dealt myself one in hearts and handed the others full houses. Once more, their eyes gaped at me. I almost forgot I was a convict. The room seemed to warm up. The lights in the ceiling were friendly. "There's nothing to it," I said. "I wish I could do it," the governor said. "I could use some of it. Show us some more." "Okay." I laughed. I raked the cards in, and I must have spent an hour showing



them tricks. As a matter of fact, the interview itself didn't end till eight-thirty or nine. But the rest of the time was used on the case, and Stassen left nothing undone. He dug into every angle of my conviction. He went back to where I had been brought up between two tobacco rows, barefooted ... how I had worked. None of the family had ever been charged with a crime. I had had five brothers who had grown into manhood. I was thirty-six years old and had never been accused, except in a little old mess down in Paducah. I asked him the question, "Governor, would a man, after he has run around the country, like I have, start into crime so late, with my kind of knowledge?" He didn't think it was possible. I was too good with the cards. But the hour was late. The last of the day crews had long since been locked away, and the Board was fixing to leave. I could see the warden's expression. The governor got up. He took me by the hand. I told him of the disappointments, of the other Board meetings, of the supreme court hearings, of how the supreme court had denied me twice, how the trial judge had turned my request down for a new trial. "Governor," I said, "can't you give me a little more encouragement than to say I've made a good impression?" "Yes," he said. "As for myself, I can speak openly. You're going to get a fair deal." I thanked him, and I don't believe he was misleading me. But there were two other members. It was plain, too, that the warden would never agree to my release. His face looked purple under the lights, swollen with the angry stare in his eyes. I knew that he would begin tearing me down the minute I left the room, and I couldn't forget that Stassen was a politician himself, and that the warden and his supporters had plenty of influence. I turned for a last look before I went out. The faces seemed cold. And the shadows in the rotunda reminded me of a graveyard. The long gloom of the corridor seemed to lead me deeper into the prison. I kept telling myself that the governor would do the right thing. But I smoked most of the night, and the following



day I could tell that something was wrong by the actions of the stoolpigeons and guards. Ordinarily, they would have suck-holed around me; would have tried to find out what had gone on in the Board room. But they hardly spoke to me, slanting sneaking looks at me, which they jerked away the minute I caught them. I didn't like it. And I folded sheets at the mangle, watching the door for the deputy's runner. Sure enough, a pass came for me just before noon. I put on my coat and walked across the hall to the office. Deputy Warden Fiske-I still say he was a very fine man-told me to take off my clothes. I said, "What have I done now?" "Leonard," he said, "you'll have to ask the warden." Well, I didn't argue. I knew what was up. I stripped. The captain of solitary led me back to the hole, locked the barred door, closed the matching wood door which shut out the light. The dark squeezed around me.


I felt my way back to the washbowl and toilet, then kicked an old mattress tossed on the floor. The bunk, which in the hole is nothing but canvas stretched on an iron frame hung from the wall, I found all rotted out. I had no blankets, no toilet paper, no cup. They did throw me some ragged clothes after a while, and about noon they pushed a third of a loaf of bread through the bars, which was the only food I received until the next day. There was no chance, of course, to get any mail or hear from the Board. Nor could I get much information out of the guards. I just had to starve there, feeding my worries, wondering what the warden would try to pull next. The hours bumped past like the cars of an endless slow freight. I walked the floor, hoping that my friends would get word to my sister someway or other, for it was plain that whatever the warden's scheme was, he wanted to keep me out of touch with my connections, and I knew that I had to reach her or my lawyer before it was too late. Every day that went by shortened my chances. I thought of throwing a whing-ding or of playing off sick-doing anything which would get me out long enough to pass a message along. But I knew it was useless. They would have let me die in the hole rather than see me reach anyone. So I continued to pace the cement floor. The dark seemed to choke me, seemed to hold the fears of the other men who had walked there. I felt as if I were wading in all of the grief which



had flowed in the prison. I listened to the footsteps going by in the corridor. Finally, after a week-or perhaps it was longer, because time didn't add up-the wooden door opened, and the warden stepped up to the bars with his secretary. I blinked, unused to the light. The twine factory, beyond the barred windows, was like a black cloud. He waved some papers at me. "Hankins," he said, "I hold in my hands what you've been fighting for all these years." "Yeah?" I said. "What is that?" "The papers," he said, "for your return to Kentucky. All you'd have to do is sign them, and you would be on your way in a few days. But you know I ain't going to give you an opportunity to sign them. I am returning these papers," he threatened, shaking them at me, "to the capitol building, with the notation that you refused to sign them." He leaned nearer the bars, his eyes straining in the red beef of his face. "Do you remember what I told you the last time I had you in the hole?" "I don't know," I said. "What was it?" "I told you," he said, "that if I had my way, I was going to see that you died behind prison bars. That still stands. I am going to learn you guys that you can't prove anything that goes on around one of these places!" He slammed the wooden door shut, and the dark hit me again. I could hear his feet chopping toward the deputy's office. The ward seemed to flinch. I walked back to the washbowl, leaned against it a minute, sorting out the thoughts and fears in my mind, trying to see a way out. If I could only talk to my sister. But I knew now that she must have returned to her home; otherwise the warden wouldn't have gone as far as he had. He was sure of himself this time, apparently, and I couldn't move. I wanted to drop right where I stood. The place had the feel of a tomb. I made myself stumble the length of the cell, grabbed for the bars and shook the iron door. "You won't get by with it!" I shouted. "You won't break me down!" I gripped the steel in my hands, listening to my voice beat at



the walls, then whimper away. There was a throb in my ears. I caught footsteps again, sneaking footsteps. I turned and lay down on the mattress. The peephole in the door grated open. I felt an eye there, but I didn't let on. Chains rattled at the front end. The door lever crashed. Oh, oh, I thought, they're going to shackle me. I sat up just as the key ground in the lock. Two of the warden's pet deputies shouldered in with the chains. "You won't break, hey," they said when they left. "You want to bet?" They slammed the dark back in my face. I called them every name I could think of, cursed the warden to the edge of his grave, kicked at the bars because my arms were clamped to my sides. Their laughter lifted behind them. I sank down on the pad. I let my head drop on my chest. I don't know how long I sat there. I lost track of the days. All I knew was the gloom, the groan of the twine-factory whistle, the doctor peeking in every noon, the feet which went by in the hallway. The bells, echoing from the other parts of the prison, seemed to ring in my soul. Then suddenly, I was taken out of the dungeon, and thrown some clothes. The captain handed me a pass for a visit. I stared at it, unable to read it, and walked down the corridor. Beyond the gates, I could see the light of outside. The bars made shadows across it, seemed to press on my eyes. Gradually, I could make out my sister in front of them. She had doubled back from Kentucky on a hunch or a tip. I was scared for her life, not too much for mine any more. I knew I couldn't tell her about being put into chains, without causing her trouble. But she noticed the marks on my wrists. She reached across the table and pushed up my sleeves, which I had pulled down. "What made those rings?" she wanted to know. I shook my head. "Oh, nothing," I said. "I don't believe you," she said, "and, if you don't tell me, I'll get it out of this warden. I already know they've had you in the dungeon. He's going to hear about it too, I'll tell you." Well, I saw that she meant to find out. So I finally gave her



the story, finally explained how I had been put into chains, how I had had an eighteen-inch belt put around me, with my hands cuffed to my hips and a big padlock jammed in the small of my back. You couldn't lie on your back. You couldn't lie on your side. You had to lie on your stomach, with your head screwed around on that little old pad on the floor. There was only one way I could drink or eat-they would open the peephole, which was maybe six inches across, and push the bread through. I would hear it hit the floor. I'd take my foot, trying to push it around, get it up against the wall, steady myself there with a shoulder, go down and chew off a few bites, and walk back to the washbowl for a couple of swallows of water. That went on and on. They saw I was holding up even under that. So they came with a solid piece of wood, after my sister had gone, to cover the grating over the doorway. They closed it completely. There was no ventilation, no place for the air to get in, except under the door, and you couldn't have driven a dime between it and the floor. I would stretch out there and try to get a fresh breath, but it did little good. The cell was like a tunnel of dust. I struggled to breathe. Sometimes I thought I was choking. The cries of a man who had gone insane at the end of the ward struck at me like my own. I felt as if we had changed places. I wasn't sure that I wasn't screaming. I would stop, trying to catch myself at it, or I would lie on the pad, listening to his hopeless weeping, which seemed to pour on me all the grief of all the imprisoned men in the world, which went on and on like a chant of the wrongs bolstered by law. The dark closed around me. I wanted to yell at the poor devil to stop. Probably I did when I didn't know it. But I knew that he couldn't help it, that the warden had had him put there to work on my mind, and I meant to show him. Nevertheless, the confinement was getting me. My health started to break. I grew weaker and weaker, and I kept thinking that it was crazy for me to go on. I would never get out. I thought of



my people; I thought of everything. I didn't want to be a coward. But it seemed to me that I ought to be able to end it some way, so it would look like a natural death. In a last effort, I begged the doctor to take me to the hospital. He would do nothing. That night I made up my mind; I made it up flatly. I had an old blanket, and I managed to wedge part of it into the crack under the door. I plugged the ventilator over the toilet, then plugged the washbowl. The faucet I was able to turn, which let the water shoot out on the floor. I shoved the plunger clear in, bending it to hold it in place. I let it go. It got to my knees, washed up to my waist. The chill of it hit me. I gulped. My brain was like a whirlpool spinning pictures and thoughts-the towns and the country I knew, the fight I had made, my home in Kentucky. Should I shut it off? No. I had made up my mind, and I wouldn't change it. I sat down on the iron frame of the bunk. I was shivering. The water seemed to get colder each minute. The dark got blacker and thicker. I could hardly tell one object from the other. I pulled my knees up under my chin. The water rose to my shoulders. I said to myself: "Well, I'm not going to dive to shut her off; I'm going to let her go all the way." I stepped down in it, felt it slap me under the chin. I was shaking now like a rabbit trapped in a log. I knew I didn't have many more minutes. I stretched up on my toes, and began to say a few prayers, not thinking there would be anyone coming along. Then, unbeknownst to me, the old night captain-I had just as well call his name, old Captain Hill-ambled by and noticed some water that had oozed under the blanket. I heard him come to a stop; sensed his surprise. I waited, with my heart in my mouth and my hope choking there too. The cold was like a heavy claw pulling me down. I felt Captain Hill turn, then take hold of the door. He jerked the thing open. The water hit him like an avalanche, slamming him against the windows on the



other side of the corridor. The rush of it sucked me into the bars. He was still pinned to the wall like a butterfly. "You son of a bitch!" he hollered. He heaved free of the flood, flapped his arms a couple of times, spat a gallon or two, rescued his hat which was bobbing around like a waterlogged cork, and went thrashing and gurgling for the front end. The water raced after him, washed back in a wave. But it had begun to go down, swirling into the drains. Before long, the warden, the doctor and a whole mess of deputies waded in in gum boots, and wanted to know what I was trying to do. I didn't give them an answer. Fiske winked at me. The warden shouted and blustered, then ordered the water cleaned up, and splashed off with the others. I was left in the same cell. The pad wasn't changed, nor my clothes.


Unless I'm mistaken, they turned off the heat-it was already winter-and probably they had to when all the water poured into the registers. Anyhow, I was freezing. I walked the floor, trying to keep my blood going, weak as I was. I didn't intend to die now if I could possibly help it. Maybe I had never wanted to die. Again, I don't know how many days passed. My clothes finally dried out. I was coughing, burning up, I suppose with a fever. I could hardly move far enough to get a drink out of the washbowl. I saw that I couldn't hold it, that everything was about gone. So I broke the light globe, determined to get word to my sister. I took the blanket, what was left of it, wrapped it and jerked the light globe. With a sliver of glass, I wrote her a note down the insides of my legs, on the flat of them, telling her I was being killed by the warden. I carried those letters on my legs for nearly six months. I bled quite a bit too, and the next morning a guard who happened to open the door noticed the blood where it had soaked through my pants. He called the warden and doctor. There was a hurried conference among the officials. They came in and looked at my legs. The warden said he ought to stomp me into the cement. They all shoved out of the cell. I could hear somebody say, "He smokes, doesn't he?" He could burn to



death there on that mattress, which would take care of the message. I got to my knees, ready to defend myself the best way I could. The iron door to the office banged all at once. A startled quiet rolled into the place. I caught a low voice, then the scrape of shoes jostling out. I sank back on the pad, listening for them to return. I could see the corridor and the edge of a window through the door they had left open, and I crawled over there. The hallway was empty. I thought: What are they up to? The door banged again. I glimpsed a blue uniform, and slid back to the mattress. The captain of solitary pushed some clean clothes through the bars. "Put these on," he said. "What's happening?" I asked. "They going to clean me up first?" "Don't say anything," he said. "But I think your sister is on the way down." "Thanks," I said, and I want to say that this captain, Skramstad, was a pretty good guy. He always treated you like a man, always did what he could for you, unless you were a rat. "You know I won't say a word." I reached for the clothes, hoping he hadn't made a mistake. I knew that if I ever needed her help, this was the time. It turned out too that she was not only on the way down; she was already there. She hadn't gone home after her last visit, but had stayed in the Twin Cities, and she described to me later how the warden had run out of his office the moment she had arrived. He, it developed had hurried inside to make sure my clothes had been changed. Then he returned to the office, where she was waiting for him. He met her with the big smile which was part of the front he presented to visitors. "I told Leonard," he said, "I wasn't going to let you see him again, but I guess you're in the right." "Warden," she said, "I didn't come to see Leonard, and I never want to see him in the condition I found him on my last



visit. But I came to talk over matters with you, and I want to ask you one question, and I ask you to tell me the truth. Leonard has been in your care between nine and ten years. You have censored all his mail since he's been here. I want you to tell me, do you believe him innocent or guilty?" "I believe he's innocent," the warden said. "I was at the trial. I also have a letter from the Department of Justice saying he's innocent." "If you believe he's innocent, why do you keep him locked up there?" "Because he refuses to work." "When I arrived here, you promised you'd take him out. He said he'd work, if he had to get down on his knees and crawl, but he was so weak he didn't know whether he could work or not. If he's doing something he ought not to do, you go with me to Leonard, and let's get this thing straightened out. I can't leave this state and see him die in that place he's in." "Well," the warden said, "we've got rules." "I know that," she said, "and I'm not asking you to break them. But it seems to me that if you're in the right, you ought to be willing to prove it." "I am." He pushed his chin out. "And I'll show you. Maybe you'll see then I'm being fair." He waved the gates open and accompanied her to the deputy's office. There, she was shown into an interview room while I was being unlocked. When I walked through the door, the doctor and Fiske were with her and the warden. The warden drew all his authority into his six feet and one inch, pouring it on me with his stare. I could see that he was daring me to step out of line. "I told your sister," he said, "that she could come back here and see for herself that you weren't being mistreated." "Yeah?" I said. "Maybe you'll let her see where you've had me then." "I certainly will." He spoke the words like a threat. "I don't have to cover up nothing."



I didn't say anything, but I wanted to tell him that he certainly didn't, with all the protection he had. "Come on," he ordered. He led the way back to the solitary ward, where the Negro swamper was mopping the floor of my cell. The mattress had been dragged out in the corridor. I touched the pad with my foot. "That's my bed," I said to my sister. Then I told her what I had been through, or I tried to before the warden shoved in between us. He waved me into the cell, his face turning purple. "That'll be enough of that kind of talk." He swung and called for the captain. "Lock him up," he ordered. "Wait a minute." My sister put her foot in the door. "I want to say a few words to him." She laid her hand on my head. A cold sweat was all over it, and was dripping off my face. "Brother," she said, "I don't believe you ever told me a lie in your life. Are you sure today about what you're saying?" "I am," I said. "I am telling you the truth. They're trying to kill me. Get me a doctor and a lawyer down here." "I said lock him up!" the warden half shouted. The captain turned the key on me. The warden strode out, his eyes glaring over his shoulder. My sister returned to the deputy's office with Fiske and Doc Johnson, who had replaced Dr. Linner after Linner had gone to the old Board of Control over the mistreatment of patients and inmates. She was crying, I think. I know she was worried and upset. "Why are they keeping him locked up?" she asked. "He won't work," Johnson declared. "He's never been taken out but once or twice," Fiske said, "and he was too weak to keep up with the crew." "Then he ought to be given a chance," she said, "and I'm going to try to see that he gets it." She made up her mind right there to go straight to the director of institutions. But the warden had left word that he wanted to see her again, and she waited for him till all the



offices were closed in St. Paul. When he finally came in, it was plain to her that he had kept her on purpose. He figured she might go over his head, or else he was playing for time. He turned a smile at the clock and invited her into his office. "Well," he said, "what did you think of Leonard's story?" "Warden," she said, "I'll tell you again that I don't believe Leonard ever lied to me in his life. I don't know, but if he's in his right mind, I believe him." "There's nothing wrong with his mind," he said. "He's just playing that trick, thinking he'll get out of here, and it's not going to get him out of here." "Well, Warden," she said, 'I'm going to do the best I can to get him out of the place he's in. I came here today to make a fight to save his life. I'm asking you to please take him out of that place, because I'm going to have to go home to my family." "I'll tell you what you do," he said. "You go see the head doctor, and if he says to put Leonard in the hospital, I'll do it." "You're the warden," she said. "It seems to me that it's up to you to see this doctor." "Well," he said, "I'll talk to him." She was hardly out in the street before they had me on a stretcher on the way to the hospital.


She went straight to my attorney, Owen Galvin, and he in turn called Melvin Passolt. The three of them sat down that same night to decide what to do. But there didn't seem much they could do except appeal to the governor and the other Pardon Board members, and it was clear that the warden had been promised support when he had ordered me put in the hole after the hearing. Nevertheless, they agreed to see all the officials, including the institutions' director. They also enlisted the aid of Sig Couch, unless I'm mistaken, and the next morning both my sister and Galvin came out to see me again. In the meantime, I had been fed a couple of meals-some soft-boiled eggs, some toast-I don't know what else they gave me-and I had been told by a civilian nurse that the warden intended to railroad me to the criminally insane ward at the St. Peter State Hospital. I asked him where he had come up with that information. "You ought to know better than to ask me," he said. "But you had better get something done." So when my sister and the attorney arrived, I told them about it. She assured me that she would stop it; that she would rather see me dead than have me sent there. "I'll get some doctors out here," she said. "I'll get a psychiatrist, and I'll stop this."



"You'll have to hurry," I said, "or you may be too late." "We'll see about that," she said. She and Galvin left for the city at once, and within an hour, a deputy warden walked in on me at the hospital. "Your sister sure got action. There's some people down in the office, ready to see you. Can you get down there?" "I'll get down there," I said, "if I have to crawl down there." "Can you hold onto me?" he asked. "Put your arm around my shoulder. Maybe you can walk." "Well, we'll try it," I said. When I got down to the office, I was taken into a room where three men sat at a table. One little guy had some goat chinwhiskers and was about seventy years old. The others looked equally capable. I could feel the squinting search of their stares. The room was a blaze of light from the lamps overhead. I hadn't got seated before somebody said, "Do you smell gas? Do you hear voices?" "Yes, sir," I said, "I hear your voice. Would you gentlemen-" I asked, although I knew who they were, "would you gentlemen mind telling me who you are and what you're here for?" The goat-chin-whiskered one turned to the others and said, "I don't think there's any harm in telling the inmate that we're what the boys call 'the Nut Board."' I didn't speak it, but I certainly thought it: You've sure got the right name. Well, I sat down. We started talking. They gave me a chance to say a few words. I believe I told them that I knew what they meant to do to me, but not to go through with it at once, that they should give my sister a chance to get some doctors up from Minneapolis-and let me be examined by them. It was going to cost her six or seven hundred dollars at the outside, and it would break her heart if she came back and found I had been sent down to St. Peter. I explained too that she had a right to know their intentions. "Your sister will not spend the six or seven hundred dollars,"



they told me. "We know where she is stopping, and she will be informed that we think you ought to go down to the state hospital for a few weeks or a few months." "Will you inform her right now?" I said. "Or wait till you've railroaded me?" "That is our business," goat chin-whiskers said; then he waved to one of the warden's stooge deputies outside the door. "And we know how to take care of our business." "You know how to rob a man of his rights anyway," I said. "All right, all right," the deputy ordered. "Come on!" He was already halfway into the room. I got up from the table. I stood an instant, eying the faces that looked up at me with a kind of dried-apple indifference. I turned and walked through the door. The chair legs scraping behind me sounded like laughter. The deputy pointed his cane toward the hole, then locked the door on me there. I sat down on the bunk for a minute, then watched the evening come up over the walls. There wasn't much I could do. If only my sister and Galvin would get here by morning, I might have a chance. But I knew it would have to be almost a miracle. The warden had really cold-decked me. The criminal ward at St. Peter was the Devil's Island of the state-prison system, to which were condemned the men the officials considered a threat to the state and their authority. You could be murdered there without any kickback; your word was no good; you had no rights as a man. Even if you survived the brutality, your chances were slim. I had to admit that the efforts to silence me and cover the frame-up were about to pay off. I watched the dark wash into the dirty light of the morning. A sparrow began to chirp under a window. I heard the swamper rattling pails out in the office. Then I caught a deputy's voice. The warden shouted an order. In a moment-it must have been about five o'clock-three or four officers apeared in front of my cell with a civilian suit and some shoes. They shoved the stuff through the bars.



"Get these on," they commanded. "What for?" I was playing for time. "Don't I get fed before I'm railroaded?" "You'll get fed when the time comes," they said. "Get going." "Nothing doing," I said. "Get those clothes on him," the warden yelled from the door to the office. "You heard him," they said. "Get them on, or well come in and put them on you." Well, there was nothing else for me to do. I couldn't fight all of them, so I got dressed. They threw the bar and unlocked me, then waved me out to the office, where a meal waited. After I had gulped down the coffee-I couldn't eat anything-they flung me an overcoat, then snapped a pair of handcuffs on me and hooked me to another man who was also being shipped to St. Peter. I could see the warden striding up and down in the hall. Deputy Fiske, who, it was plain, didn't approve of the business, led me out there. The warden came to a halt, his neck and face swelling till I thought his eyes would explode in his head. He chopped an arm at my legs. "What's the idea?" he shouted. "Why ain't this man shackled?" "I thought you were in a hurry," Fiske said. "Get the shackles on him right away. Right now," the warden commanded. He paced a circle around me while Fiske went after the shackles and chained me up like an animal. The warden followed us to the gates. I could see him out on the steps when we drove away, and I knew he had sent word ahead of me. The four attendants-I guess they were labeled the wrecking crew-who met me at St. Peter made it clear that they considered me a desperado. But I didn't say anything. They took off the handcuffs. The civilian part of the hospital was spread over a hill above the building which housed the criminal ward. The guards hustled me through the usual gates, waited till I was given a checkup, then herded me up three flights of steps, and locked me in the toughest ward in the place-B6. I



stood a minute, not moving. The faces that looked back at me were like something out of a nightmare. Men ran, screaming, half naked. I saw poor devils stretched on the floors of locked cells without a stitch of clothes on. Others wandered through the ward, muttering the same word over and over, shooting cigarette butts off the floor. Still others, crouched on their haunches, jabbered and wept. 0 God, I thought, what have I done to deserve this?


Somehow I got through the rest of the day and the night. The next morning my sister arrived. We met in the visiting room. Tears stood in her eyes. I could see that she was hurt beyond words. She told me how she had gone straight to the state capitol after she and Galvin had last talked to me in Stillwater, how all the offices had been closed because of the Pearl Harbor bombing, how she had then talked to Galvin and Melvin Passolt, who late that same night had called up the prison, only to be told I had already been sent to St. Peter. In other words, the warden had lied to keep them from stopping him. It was plain, therefore, that he hadn't been sure he would pull the thing off. He hadn't shipped me out before daylight for nothing, and I instructed my sister to go right back to St. Paul and see the Pardon Board members. She promised she would. Before she left, though, I called for the supervisors and told them what had been done, making it clear that if the pressure didn't let up, they would have to answer for it, and that they had better not cooperate with the warden and Goff and the others. They assured both my sister and me that they wouldn't, provided I followed the rules in St. Peter. But I didn't have a great deal of confidence in them. I had heard that the head of the place, Dr. Freeman, had always worked with the warden, and I knew also that I was under close



observation. I could feel their eyes, could see them watching my every move. I couldn't go after a drink without a guard following me. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to find one in front of my cell, and of course they dogged me all over the ward. I began to think that I was in for a worse time, even, than I had got in Stillwater. Then one day an assistant supervisor called me off in a little room. He said, "What in the world did they send you down here for?" "You must know, don't you?" I said. "I don't have any idea," he said. "They've sent men here, but if you're crazy, I don't know-I think everybody's crazy." In the meantime, of course, my sister had gone to the governor and the other Pardon Board members. They had expressed surprise over my transfer to the St. Peter Hospital. They had known nothing about it, they claimed, and they gave her a promise that I would be released to a veterans' hospital, though I have wondered since whether they didn't make it to keep her from contesting the Insanity Board's ruling in court. But at the time I had to accept it. I needed something to hold to. I was down about as low as a man could be and still continue to live, and the conditions I had to put up with didn't help any. I had learned the hard way, furthermore, about Minnesota's courts and its law. So I urged her to press for action on it; and after she had returned to Dawson Springs to put together the money, she came back and contacted Board members and friends, asking for a rehearing, and offering to pay for my care in a private institution if the veterans' hospital shouldn't want to accept me. Owen Galvin, of course, handled the details, and I think Passolt helped too. Anyway, the Board finally agreed to consider the case. The day for the hearing was set. And knowing that we would meet the same opposition, Galvin asked that he and my sister be allowed to be present when the arguments against me were made. They wanted to question Goff in particular. Lamson, the Board secretary, agreed that they could be there. A few days before the hearing, how-



ever, Goff requested a chance to appear later, maintaining that a death in his family made it impossible for him to be on hand at the scheduled date. Notified of it, Galvin objected, suspecting a trick. But the Board granted Goffs wish, although it did promise that my attorney and sister still could be present when Goff made his appearance. In any event, the regular meeting was held without the county attorney. My sister, Galvin and my witnesses were there. The members were courteous-I think Thye was governor then-but they said they had been informed by Dr. Freeman down at St. Peter that I had been placed on the "Hill," the civilian part of the hospital, where I would get treated as well as I would be in a veterans' hospital. So they didn't see any point in transferring me. Nevertheless, they meant to give me every consideration, etc., etc. Well, my sister and the attorney were more than surprised. Three days before I had been in the criminally insane ward, and the plain truth is that I hadn't been put up on the "Hill," and they had no intention of placing me there. Either Dr. Freeman had lied to the Board, or the Board itself was guilty of falsehood. To put it bluntly, they had pulled another cheap trick. And they didn't stop there. My sister had stayed till her money was just about gone, so she had to get home. But she made another visit to the state capitol, getting a further promise from Lamson that she and my lawyer would be notified in time to face Goff when he met with the Board. She hadn't been home more than a few days, however, when Mr. Gof's picture appeared in the papers under big headlines: "County Attorney Opposes Hankin's Release to Veterans' Hospital." Apparently, both he and the Board were afraid of the questions we wanted to ask. When Owen Galvin learned about it, he sat down and wrote a blistering letter direct to the governor, which I believe today is in the Pardon Board files.



"I am just about as mad as an Irishman can get and stay out of jail," he started it out. And he laid down the facts, fact after fact, as to why it was done, why such skulduggery had been allowed to take place. But we never got an answer from either the governor or the other Board members, except another card marked: "Denied." I can't say, of course, that I wasn't prepared for it after what Freeman had done, but it hit me hard just the same. I was in a weakened condition; moreover, I had fallen away to around a hundred and twenty-eight pounds, and it didn't look like I could hang on many more days, but my sister didn't give up. She applied for a rehearing, which was also turned down. Then she started work on a plan to get me moved to a hospital back in Kentucky, and both she and Galvin put on the pressure to obtain better treatment for me in St. Peter. She took rooms near the place, too, staying once for five months and another for seven. She brought food in to me by the basket. She came every day, some days two or three times, and gradually I began to get my strength back. The tension relaxed. After about a year, I was offered a job running the diet kitchen. Next, I was given charge of the drug department. Then I was put over the ward hospital as inmate in charge, all of which helped me to get my mind off my troubles and gave me a chance to get around more. I saw what was and was not being done for the inmates. I was subject to call twenty-four hours a day. I'd get up at a quarter to five in the morning. I was lucky if I got to bed by nine, and maybe in two hours I'd be called for somebody who had died or hanged himself or been killed. I'd have to get up, go and bring him over, wash him and lay him out. But I didn't mind it too much. I had the feeling that I was doing some good. I think I was actually satisfied with that job, and if I hadn't been behind bars, if I hadn't had to fight to get out, I could have done a lot more than I did. But the battle had to go on. My sister was running back and forth, trying to make



the arrangements for my transfer to the hospital at my home in Kentucky, and I had to do what I could to cooperate, so I kept my nose clean. I didn't mess in the politics of the place. And I ignored the brutality and the mistreatment whenever I could, for we had in St. Peter, like they have in all others, the good and the bad-I mean the attendants. We had bulls there who were willing to take you apart. We had the "wrecking crew." It seemed like they were sadists. I've seen men worked on that I didn't think had it coming; nor could anybody else see where they had it coming. But I was just another inmate. There was no way I could have stopped any of it. I was able, however, to get a little better food for the men in the T.B. ward by pointing out to the doctor that the patients would hardly get well on the stuff coming off the main linepotatoes and such cooked in linseed oil-and I like to think that I helped save the lives of several boys, especially one young boy they said there was no hope for. "You're wasting your time," they told me when I took over. I saw he was eating well though. I gave him anything he requested. But I couldn't get his temperature down. I think it was a hundred and three, a hundred and four; maybe it went higher than that. I took him down and isolated him in a cell. I asked my boss if I could have it my way; I said that I wanted to try to break the fever. He said for me to go ahead. I wrapped the boy between two wet sheets, cold sheets, soaked in ice-cold water; I did put ice in some of the water; I bathed him four and five times a day. Within five days I had that temperature broken. Within two weeks I had him back in the ward. At the end of seven weeks he was working in the clothes shop. Another man-we still must not forget that they're humans -had slipped up behind me and tried to slug me with a dub or something; I don't recall now just what it was or what it was all about; you can't pay any attention to things of that kind. But he came to like me afterwards. He came down sick. He didn't have a dime in the world. I asked him-the doctors had



given up hope; they had the curtains around him, and he didn't have but three or four days to live. I think he had what they call leukemia; anyway, he only had a short time to live, and I asked him if there was anything he wanted. "Anything you want," I said. "You name it." Well, he called for a wonderful thing. He said, "My mother lives in International Falls, and she's on relief. She's alone. She ain't got the money to come. That's one thing I'd like. I'd be willing to go if I could see my mother." I went to the supervisor, and asked him if I could take it off my account. We had the money on the way in an hour. So I kept busy, and it may be that it saved my own life. I know it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I could face the grief and despair that stared at me from the eyes of the poor devils around me, and I could take the run-around the Pardon Board continued to give me. But I didn't accept it. I told my sister to keep after it, which she steadfastly did, working mostly alone, for as I recollect, Melvin Passolt had died and Galvin had moved to St. Louis. I think John Kelly helped, though, along with Sig Couch. Anyhow, my sister didn't let up. During most of this time, of course, she kept working, pouring all the money she made into the fight. I don't know how much she spent. But she made a dozen trips between Minnesota and home, and finally it was agreed by the Minnesota authorities that, if Kentucky would accept and come after me, they would release me to a veterans' hospital or some other hospital there. She caught a bus at once to give me the news, certain that everything was arranged. She even made train reservations for myself and two officers. Then word came from Kentucky that it could not take me as long as I was in an asylum.


Well, this time it was a bigger blow to my sister than it was to me. She didn't know which way to turn. She dragged herself back to Dawson again, and took up her job. But she still held her courage. She made other trips. We filed more applications. We learned, though, after several long years, that I would have to go back to Stillwater before Minnesota would free me. That was the law. A man had to return to the institution to which he was sentenced in order to get any consideration if he was a lifer. After what I had gone through in Stillwater, I was actually afraid to go back to the place. I had gone through a living hell there. In my years there I had done close to a thousand days in the dungeon and solitary confinement, some of it in chains. But my sister pleaded with me. She begged me. She argued that I had a better chance now, for Goff and the judge had both died, and she had been to the warden, who had made his usual promises-he would put me in the hospital; he would give me a good job; he would do this and do that. I was told too that I wouldn't serve ninety days if I would agree. I had completely recovered, of course; everybody said there was no doubt about that. I had recovered all right, just like I had before I went down there. I was in better shape mentally when I left Stillwater than I was then, as a matter of fact. Anyway, I thought I ought to return for the sake of my



sister. I wasn't sitting too well at St. Peter, either, because of the shake-up in which I had figured. The governor had surprised them one day, and had arrived on the "Hill" unannounced, and I was instructed to rush and get clothes for the naked men lying on the floor in the locked cells before he got to the criminal ward; but I didn't rush. I made sure that he got there and saw everything. So I had some beat on me. And it was no better in Stillwater. I wasn't put in the hospital there; I was offered the twine shop or the laundry, and I took the latter. Locked back in a cell, therefore, from five in the evening till seven the next morning, I began losing weight. Down I went from a hundred and sixty-eight to around a hundred and thirty-eight or forty. My sister finally cornered the warden and told him he wasn't keeping his promise to put me in the hospital. After some hemming and hawing, he came around. He said he would send me up there first as a patient, and when there was an opening, I could go to work. But I didn't lie around in a bed. I was assigned a job the day I was transferred, although it was an improvement over the laundry. At least we got to sleep in a ward, and we received better food. But the Pardon Board still wouldn't do anything for me. For nearly three years, John Kelly filed one application after another, drawing mostly denials, and at one hearing I understand the man who was governor declared that I belonged in a prison. I know for a fact that he always had been against me because I had played some cards in my life. He hated guns too. Any man carrying a gun was the worst kind of criminal, to his way of thinking. But I would like to say to him now that, gambler or not, I never took a dime from a poor man. I never put anybody in jail or helped keep him there. I never preached righteousness and practiced the opposite, and I have helped out my share of the unfortunate who people this world. I'll say this for that governor, however-he did make a start toward cleaning up the state's mental hospitals.



Anyway, I didn't expect much of him. But when he resigned to become a federal judge, I did hope his successor might free me. Yet he too turned me down, probably because he took the advice of the other two Pardon Board members, and I never will forget the day I got the decision. It was noon, I remember. We were all in the ward. I said so that everybody could hear, "I now know where the heat's coming from, and if it's the last thing I ever do on this earth, I'll expose this institution." And I meant it this time. I had nothing to lose. I had my chance too, for a fire had already been started under Stillwater by people outside, and I had reason to believe that my case would be used to help the exposure along. So I dictated a letter which was slipped out to radio station KSTP. It was received by Cal Karnstadt, who turned it over to Stanley Hubbard, the president. He came out to see me at once, only to be stopped at the front gate, after which he sent his lawyer down. Today, Mr. Hubbard holds a pretty complete statement from me, some of it almost unprintable. Within ten days, I was granted a special hearing by the Pardon Board. How it came about isn't material here. But I would like to say that Governor Anderson really stepped into the case when he got hold of the facts, and Sig Couch, one of the detectives who had stood up to the chief of police, should have some of the credit along with John Kelly. They worked with my sister day in and day out, contacting Board members and witnesses. They talked to Governor Anderson, talked to the Pardon Board secretary, talked to Fred Noel, the barber on Wabasha, who now has a shop in the Endicott Building. They made arrangements for Johnny Albrecht, another policeman who had gone to bat for me in the beginning, to fly up from the south for the meeting. They checked all the affidavits and records, and when they had everything set, Couch came out to see me. We met in the visiting room. There were just a few days to go. "Well, Leonard," he said, "we'll make it this time. I've got every confidence that you are now going out."



I looked across the table at him. I remembered when another governor was fixing to free me. I remembered the times when the Pardon Board interviews had been stopped by throwing me in the hole. I couldn't believe, nothing could make me believe, that the warden would ever let my feet hit the ground. I told Sig it was useless. "In some way or other it will be blocked," I said. "They will never let me go out. He has told me." And the warden had told me that. He had told me long before when he had opened the wooden door in the dungeon. "I told you," he had said, "that I was going to see that you died behind bars ...

I'm going to learn you guys, you guys . . ."

But Sig wasn't persuaded. He was calm, certain. He explained that things now were different. "And I'm going to check on you every day," he said. "I'm going to tell them that here. It's not going to happen. You won't be sent to St. Peter, and there won't be any witnesses appearing against you." "What about Peterson?" I asked. He was the one witness who had held out to the last, who had claimed he was driving through Como Park when the robbers changed cars, and who had positively identified me as having a bag of money and a rifle which I threw up with a "You keep going." Later he hedged, saying I was the guy who had knocked the gun down. "He'll show up," I added. "Not for this hearing, he won't," Sig said. "If he does, he'll wish he hadn't. We've found out that he was over on the other side of St. Paul when he was supposed to have been in the park, and Charley Foster has checked the road where the bandits switched cars, and he will testify that the man couldn't have possibly identified anybody, that he couldn't have had the men in view more than a few seconds. So you can forget about him." "I wish I could," I said.


I wanted to believe him, and the publicity on the case was in my favor too. Even the prison grapevine had it that I would go free. But six governors had already denied me my freedom. I had nineteen years of disappointment to look back upon. And I couldn't forget them. I had to admit that if I lost, I was done; that the warden would find a way to get rid of me once he learned what was in the letter I had sent the radio station. So the night before the meeting was sleepless. I wandered through the ward, anxious for the morning that came up behind the walls and the towers. I heard the bells ring the men out of bed in the cell halls. The sounds of the hospital seemed to come from far off. And I took over my shift in a kind of a daze. I can't remember now what my thoughts were. I know I kept watching the clock, counting the minutes, marking the hours, trying to picture the hearing in the governor's office. At twelve o'clock, I told myself that it ought to be over-that someone would surely be down if the decision was favorable. I eyed the walk and the steps which connected the hospital with the rest of the prison. The men filed past from the shops on their way into dinner. They marched back to work about one. I continued to watch for a pass from the visiting room, with my stomach doubling into slow knots. By two, I was ready to believe that the whole state had risen up to oppose my release. At four, there still was no



word. This was the last, this was the final. The prison whistle moaned for the evening. I trailed back to the ward after supper, listening to the keys in the locks. The sound seemed to condemn me. I felt the years take hold of my throat. I asked the deputy warden when he came through if he had heard anything, but he only grinned, shaking his head. I lay down on the bunk. The talk of the other men in the room was like the cawing of crows. The wind, rallying the late autumn dusk, whispered an echo into the trees. I turned my face into the pillow. Then I heard the night deputy's voice, heard him come down the hall. "Hankins," he called. "Get on your clothes. You're wanted down front." "What?" I sat up, my stare as tense as my body. I didn't dare hope; didn't dare believe. "What for?" "I don't know," he said. "Just change your clothes." I pulled off my white hospital pants and put on my prison suit, buttoning my coat with fumbling fingers on the way to the door. It was already dark. The lamps lining the walk were like eyes of wolves that waited for me. I hurried beneath them, with my thoughts racing ahead: "Am I denied once again? . . . What have they done-put me off with another excuse? . . . Has my

sister come at such a late hour to bring the bad news?" I stumbled up the steps to the corridor, which opened into the rotunda. I could see the front gates. There was a crowd there. The faces looked pale under the lights. I caught the excitement of voices. Then I spotted my sister, heard her cry out. The next instant the turnkey opened the gates. She rushed toward me, screaming at the top of her voice: "You're free! You're free!" I caught her, held her in my arms. The exploding flash bulbs of the photographers drove all the shadows from the rotunda.


There is one great hour in every man's life. But there will never be another such as that one for me, and I admit that the tears filled my eyes. I could have sunk to my knees. I know I had to sit down, while the reporters asked questions and my sister described the hearing to me, and, looking around the crowded rotunda, it seemed almost impossible that I was the object of all the attention. The governor himself had called the newspapers and ordered Stillwater opened, so my sister alone could give me the news. The Pardon Board secretary had even testified for me. Yet, a few hours before, I had been just another dirty-necked convict, and suddenly it seemed to me that there was something cruel and unreal about all of it-that the bars and the gates, the shadowy reaches of cell blocks and corridors, set me apart. The papers, the radio and the television machines which would be set up when I left in the morning would never tell what I had been through. They could never impart to the public what the years had taught me. They would never reach out a hand to the other poor devils who rotted in prisons. But I would always feel for them. I would always wish all of them free, and it hurt me to say good-by the next day to the boys I had lived with so long, for I knew their pain and their loneliness. I knew how their eyes would stare after me. And I made up my mind then to do all that I could to make things



easier for them. I wanted to shout the truth about Stillwater into the microphones and the cameras which waited for me to turn back a number at the front entrance. But I still hadn't received an unconditional pardon, and my friends wouldn't let me. So I had to make the best of it. I took my short prison overcoat, a few pictures and letters that I had cherished, met my sister and a great friend, Mrs. Sig Couch, and stepped through the gates where the crowd spilled over the steps, and where the warden was posed for photographers under the census box of the prison. He stuck out a big hand. "Hankins," he said, "I wish you all the luck in the world." He clapped me on the shoulder, then grabbed for my fingers. I felt as if I should spit in his palm, but I was a gentleman. I let him shake my hand finally. "Sure," I said, and I believe I added, "I guess it'll be bygones are bygones." Then I reached up and flipped over the number, shoving on through the people, through the light from outside, and I saw the trees there. I saw the wide stretches of the St. Croix. I saw the hills and the sky and the distance, and I remembered how I had been commanded to turn for a last glance when I had come in . . . how I had wondered what it would be like being in

prison. I looked back as if the years were still waiting. But the bars were behind me, and descending the steps, I felt my heart pumping stronger. I felt a different earth under my feet. I stopped a minute, drawing everything in, while the reporters talked to me and the television cameras kept grinding, and I wasn't sure again that I was now free. I couldn't reach what was around me. The voices didn't mean anything. The faces looked cold. The wind, swirling the leaves, wept the same as last night, and the bad dream which had gripped me after I had been sentenced seemed to stand at my elbow .


. seemed

ready to follow wherever I went. I was almost afraid to move on. Then I noticed a young girl from the Stillwater newspaper, who couldn't get near me because of the crowd, and I broke



away to give her the story. I left her with the world closer somehow. I even joked about Stillwater during the trip to St. Paul, and there, in the barber-shop of Fred Noel, where I sat for more pictures, which many people perhaps saw under the heading "Nineteen Years Between Haircuts," I first began to relax. But I wasn't used to it. I couldn't hold my nerves steady. I could hardly sit still, and the women who passed on the street in their bright clothes, with their fresh faces and bodies, were like flowers I didn't dare touch. I had to force myself to watch the noisy glitter of traffic. I had never seen parking meters before. The cars were strange and unknown-the buildings, the cities, the earth. It was a new world, an unexplored world. And I didn't know whether I belonged in it. I thought I might be a pull-back. I was groping for confidence, for the way back into life, and I kept wondering if my friends and the children I had grown up with would accept me as they had before I had been accused and convicted. It was hard to lose the thought that I was an ex-convict. It was harder still to believe in the reality of freedom, and for a long time, I would climb out of bed in the dark, would creep through my sister's house to the front porch, where the moonlight dappled the hills. I would smell the sulphur gas from the mines. I would look up at the trees and the sky, and I would say, "Is this so? Can it be so?" I couldn't see any bars. Gradually, of course, I became more sure of myself. I could hope once again. The Pardon Board gave me a full pardon, wiping my conviction completely off the books. I received thousands of letters from well-wishers all over the country, and I should like to answer those people who have asked whether my mind isn't poisoned forever. It is not. God had been kind enough to wipe out most of the bitterness. To the ones, therefore, who prosecuted me, who testified against me, who were instrumental in keeping me in there, I wish to say:



Go home. Go to bed. Forget about it. But God pity you if you ever do to another man what you did to me. Be more certain, everyone, everywhere. When you make an identification, unless you want to be a ringer, be sure that you are putting the finger on the right man, because I am able to speak, and I know how it feels to suffer for more than nineteen years not guilty.

Epilogue A good many people will believe neither the story nor the conditions described in the preceding pages, and a lot of others will probably defend the law and the police, will make excuses for them. But everything in the book is well documented. There have been no attempts to embellish the facts, and to those who regard the state as sacrosanct and as the eternal champion of justice, I can only point out that the prisons are filled with similar cases. There will be more tomorrow and next week and next year. A few will be lucky perhaps, like Leonard Hankins, but the majority will never be vindicated, even if they gain freedom again. And the cycle will go on, until men realize that law is now and has always been the instrument of special groups, that it is used to insure their power, that it is not for the protection of the individual but for his subjection. The blood and sorrow which have consecrated the struggle up from slavery have not changed the basic tenets. Law is still the master's word, the king's will, the baron's whim, whether it is administered in the name of one man or two hundred million, and it is that attempt to make it divine, to lift it above humanity and the rights of the individual (always in the name of humanity and the rights of the individual) which encourages tyranny and legalizes the mob, whatever its color or politics may be. Give a man or a crowd enough power and protection, and abuse is almost bound to creep in. The warden of the Hankins story is a case in point. He might well have been a different person, if he had had to answer for his acts himself. But he had the law to glorify and defend him. He was the law in Stillwater prison. Consequently, he could indulge most of his prejudices. He could nourish his arrogance. Whatever kindness he may have had in the beginning was sacrificed in the building of his own little dynasty, to his need



to compensate for being a policeman, so that his bullying instincts were given free rein, and he could push men around without fear of reprisal-men who, if the odds had been even, would have run him off the face of the earth. In any event, he was the product of his environment to a considerable extent. But it was his craving for authority, his need to bolster his ego and protect his position, which gave him his start. And I am afraid he is typical, that officialdom in general is sympathetic to him. It is part of the record, for example, that as far back as 1932 the Wickersham Commission called Stillwater prison one of the worst in the country. Yet it was not until 1952 that a sincere effort was made to do away with the silent system. When the warden was replaced, moreover, it was by one of his prot46gs who was less fitted for the job than he, and it took a complete political housecleaning in the state capitol to get any real action. Even then, Governor Orville Freeman had the legislature to fight. He was besieged by a host of organizations, including most of the town of Stillwater, which protested his shake-up of the place, and it is to his everlasting credit that he let none of it deter him. Consequently, the prison has come a long way from the institution described in the book. But neither the governor nor Minnesotans in general can afford to forget that the old forces are still powerful, that the police mind is about the same wherever it's found, that it strives almost unconsciously to perpetuate and extend its hegemony. The tyranny which hides behind prison walls, which is inherent in the administration of justice, does not lie dormant for long. And it can destroy all of us, if we aren't careful. EARL GUY

Valley Highlands Savage, Minnesota


Report of the State Claims Commission


No. 62

Leonard Hankins, Claimant, vs. State of Minnesota, Department of Public Welfare, Respondent Findings and Recommendation FINDINGS

This is a claim by Leonard Hankins for an award to compensate him for an unjustified arrest, erroneous conviction and unlawful imprisonment from December 18, 1932, to November 27, 1951. Hankins was arrested December 18, 1932, by the Minneapolis police as a suspected participant in an armed robbery of the Third Northwestern National Bank of that city which occurred on December 16, 1932. Two Minneapolis policemen were shot and killed in the course of the holdup and a St. Paul man was shot and killed by the robbers as they were changing cars in Como Park in St. Paul. Hankins was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Nineteen years later he was exonerated by the Minnesota Pardon Board of having had any part in this crime; it having been established in the meantime that the bank robbery and the killings were committed by seven members of the then notorious BarkerKarpis gang and that Hankins had never been associated with that gang. According to the testimony of Hankins, which was corroborated by the testimony of a former detective, who was then on the Minneapolis Police Force, Hankins was brutally beaten and handcuffed to a cell door by the police in an effort to extract from him a confession of his participation in the robbery. He



claims that he suffered several broken ribs and a broken nose as a result of this "third degree" that he then received. He did not confess nor indicate any knowledge of the robbery but instead insisted that he was innocent. He has at all times contended that he never had any association whatsoever with any members of the Barker-Karpis gang. Hankins was indicted for murder in the first degree by a Grand Jury on December 27, 1932, for the death of one of the policemen killed in the robbery. His case came on for trial in the District Court of Hennepin County, Minnesota, on January 25, 1933. He was convicted and sentenced on February 6, 1933, to a term of life imprisonment in the Minnesota State Prison at Stillwater, Minnesota. He remained there until December 19, 1941, when he was removed to the State Hospital for the Insane at St. Peter, Minnesota, and was confined in that institution until November 18, 1948. He was then returned to the state prison and continuously confined there until November 27, 1951, when the Minnesota Pardon Board granted a conditional commutation of his sentence. On February 25, 1953, the Pardon Board granted a final unconditional commutation of his sentence, and on March 10, 1953, the Governor restored his civil rights. This form of action was taken by the Pardon Board because they had concluded that Hankins was innocent of the crime for which he had been convicted. They purposely did not grant a pardon, as it was their opinion that such action would have implied guilt. Chief Justice Loring, who was then one of the members of the Pardon Board, wrote that, "In the first place his conviction was based on the slimmest evidence. Later more evidence convinced the Pardon Board of his innocence." Hankins claims that during his incarceration in Stillwater he spent approximately one thousand days in solitary confinement. Hankins was thirty-six years of age at the time of his conviction. He is now 58. In 1935, through the efforts of a newspaper reporter, Jack



Mackay, it was learned that one Jess Doyle, who was then serving a ten-year sentence in the Nebraska State Prison for robbery of a bank at Fairbury, Nebraska, had made a confession to the F.B.I. which identified the seven members of the BarkerKarpis gang, including himself, who had held up the Third Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis on December 16, 1932. Doyle named the seven participants in the bank robbery as Fred Barker, Doc Barker, Larry DeVol, Bill Weaver, Alvin Karpis, Verne Miller and Jess Doyle. The confession explains in detail the movements and positions of the various members of the gang during the course of the robbery. It tells where several members were living in St. Paul prior to the robbery and where they went afterwards. It does not mention Leonard Hankins. Subsequently, on January 9, 1936, Jess Doyle was interviewed by Mr. M. C. Passolt, Superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, with reference to the Third Northwestern National Bank robbery. Doyle told Mr. Passolt that Leonard Hankins did not have any part in the robbery of the Third Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis on December 16, 1932. One of the participants in the bank robbery named by Jess Doyle was Lawrence DeVol, who had been arrested in St. Paul two days following the robbery with a substantial part of the money and securities stolen from the Third Northwestern National Bank in his possession. DeVol had been indicted for murder in connection with the killing of the Minneapolis policeman; he had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Minnesota State Prison at Stillwater. This had all occurred prior to the time Hankins was tried, and Lawrence DeVol had been a witness at Hankins' trial. He testified that Leonard Hankins was not one of the participants in the robbery and that he had never met Hankins before. On February 6, 1936, Mr. Passolt interviewed Lawrence DeVol at the criminal ward of the State Hospital for the Insane at St. Peter, Minnesota, where DeVol was then incarcerated. Despite the fact that DeVol was then committed to the State



Hospital for the Insane, the statement that he gave to Mr. Passolt explained in extensive detail the movements of the Barker-Karpis gang during the robbery, before and afterwards. The details of this statement correspond to the details of the confession previously obtained from Jess Doyle. Lawrence DeVol independently named the seven participants in the Third Northwestern National Bank robbery as Jess Doyle, Doc Barker, Fred Barker, William Weaver, Verne Miller, Alvin Karpis and Lawrence DeVol, the same men named by Doyle in his confession. DeVol's statement further corroborated Doyle's with reference to where members of the gang had been living prior to the robbery. DeVol stated that Hankins had nothing to do with the bank robbery. He further suggested that the lady in charge of an apartment at Cleveland and Marshall in St. Paul, which had been occupied by the Barkers just prior to the robbery, would be able to recognize all of the men who took part in the holdup of the Third Northwestern National Bank from pictures, but that if shown a picture of Hankins, she would not be able to identify him as ever having been seen in that apartment with the gang. On February 8, 1936, William L. Conley of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension visited this apartment building at Cleveland and Marshall in St. Paul. He talked to the janitor of the building, who identified Fred Barker, Doc Barker, Alvin Karpis and "Ma" Barker from pictures and stated that they had lived in an apartment there during December, 1932. He further identified William Weaver, Jess Doyle and Larry DeVol from pictures as visitors at the Barker apartment. He -could not identify Leonard Hankins from a picture and stated that he had never seen Hankins at the Barker apartment or around the premises. On the same day Mr. Conley talked to the desk clerk at the Commodore Apartments in St. Paul, who confirmed the fact that Verne Miller had been living there in December, 1932. The



desk clerk could not identify a picture of Leonard Hankins and said he had never seen him around there. On February 10, 1936, Mr. Conley returned to the apartment building on Cleveland and Marshall where the Barkers had lived and talked to the lady who owned the apartment building and her son. Both of them recognized the pictures of Fred Barker, Doc Barker, "Ma" Barker and Alvin Karpis as tenants of one of their apartments in December 1932, and identified Jess Doyle, William Weaver and Lawrence DeVol as visitors at this apartment. Neither of them had ever seen Hankins at or around the apartment building. On January 27, 1936, Mr. M. C. Passolt interviewed William Weaver in the Ramsey County Jail in St. Paul, where he was awaiting sentence after conviction for the kidnaping of Edward Bremer, St. Paul banker. Weaver was named by both Doyle and DeVol as one of the Third Northwestern National Bank robbers. Weaver stated categorically that he knew that Hankins did not have anything to do with the bank robbery, although he would not admit that he was a participant himself. On January 7, 1937, Alvin Karpis was interviewed at Alcatraz Prison, where he was then serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to the kidnaping of William Hamm, St. Paul brewer. Karpis was also named by both Doyle and DeVol as being one of the bank robbers. Karpis signed a written statement in which he stated that of his own knowledge he knew that Leonard Hankins was innocent of the Third Northwestern National Bank robbery. He further stated that he had never seen Hankins. Hankins admits that he was a professional gambler prior to his arrest. Both he and some of the other witnesses who appeared before the Commission claimed that, because of this fact, he was made a scapegoat and deliberately framed by the Minneapolis authorities in order to satisfy the public demand for the apprehension and conviction of the Third Northwestern National Bank robbers.



Whatever the merits of this claim may be, it is the opinion of the Commission after a careful study of the transcript of his trial, the Pardon Board files and all of the evidence and testimony, that Hankins' conviction resulted from the admission of testimony that was grossly improper and prejudicial and from testimony that was perjured. Over the years Hankins had made ten applications for review of his case to the Pardon Board without results. Applications were made in March 1935 October 1936 December 1937 October 1938 May 1939

February 1940 October 1940 November 1948 November 1949 August 1951

In view of the fact that the confessions of Jess Doyle and Lawrence DeVol and the results of the investigation of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were available in 1936, it is astonishing that the Minnesota Pardon Board failed to get to the bottom of this case and rectify such a grievous miscarriage of justice years ago. It wasn't until Governor C. Elmer Anderson took office in October 1951, and this case was brought to his attention, that any effective action was taken. He immediately called an unprecedented special meeting of the Pardon Board in November 1951. He had the meeting publicized and invited everyone who knew anything about the case to appear. The result was that Hankins was immediately freed. Hankins has lost nineteeen years of his life during which he was unjustly and unlawfully deprived of his freedom. It has left him a broken man physically and mentally. In addition it has prevented him from earning and laying aside any savings for his remaining years. He has in fact spent everything he ever owned on his constant fight for freedom. No amount of money could adequately compensate Hankins for what he has suffered. It is, therefore, the opinion of the Commission that rather than to



award Hankins a large sum of money, it would be to his best interest if he were assured an adequate income for the rest of his life so that he can enjoy whatever remaining years he has in relative tranquility and security. However, in addition to Hankins' personal welfare, it is apparent to the Commission that Hankins' plight has placed him under the clearest legal and moral obligation to two other persons who certainly are entitled to reimbursement out of any award that the state may grant to him. During the many years that Hankins was in prison, his sister, Mrs. Della Lowery, was unremitting in her efforts to bring his case before the Pardon Board. Mrs. Lowery testified that she had spent all of her personal earnings throughout these years on his behalf, and that her actual expenditures approximated $30,000. She itemized many of these expenditures but had kept no record of most of them. John J. Kelly, of Minneapolis, was the attorney appointed by the District Court of Hennepin County to defend Hankins at his trial. Kelly was paid $10.00 per day for these services as a public defender. However, after Hankins' conviction Kelly continued to work on the case without compensation. He investigated the testimony of the state's witnesses and obtained proof that part of the state's evidence at Hankins' trial was perjured testimony. He presented this to the Court on a motion for a new trial. He prepared an appeal and argued the case twice before the Minnesota Supreme Court. He prepared and argued the first application to the Pardon Board in 1935. Thereafter Hankins obtained the services of other lawyers on subsequent applications to the Pardon Board from 1936 through 1941, but Kelly continued to work with them on the matter without any compensation despite the fact that Mrs. Della Lowery and Hankins paid the other lawyers for their services. In 1948, after Hankins was returned to Stillwater from St. Peter he again turned to Mr. Kelly, who then handled the applications to the Pardon Board in 1948, 1949 and 1951. Kelly has never been paid for these services.



It is the opinion of the Commission that the time and efforts that Mr. Kelly selflessly and faithfully devoted to this case over the period of 19 years-efforts which were motivated by a sense of justice without any prospect of compensation-could be conservatively valued at $10,000. If Hankins were to receive a lump sum award from the state, he would have a clear obligation to reimburse his sister, Mrs. Della Lowery, and Mr. John J. Kelly, at least in part for the contribution each of them has made to his cause. If, on the other hand, he is given a monthly income, he will not be able to meet these obligations which arise out of the unlawful imprisonment that he has suffered. It is, therefore, the opinion of the Commission that in equity and good conscience this claim can best be resolved by the following awards: RECOMMENDATIONS

1. That Leonard Hankins be paid $300.00 per month for the balance of his life. 2. That Della Lowery be awarded the sum of $10,000. 3. That John J. Kelly be awarded the sum of $5,000. STATE CLAIMS COMMISSION

Dated September 29th, 1954.