Minneapolis, MN- Walter Billings (91), was sentenced to life in prison back in 1952 for a bank robbery. A total of $300,000 was stolen, which equals over $3,000,000 in today’s money. No money from the robbery had ever been recovered, but over 10 eye-witnesses to the crime all picked Walter Billings out of a line up.
Back in the 1950’s “innocent until proven guilty” was not always the way things went down. Before the trial even started, the court of “public opinion” had deemed him guilty. Each one of the 10 witnesses pointed him out in court as the man who had robbed the bank. Walter’s attorney convinced him not to take the stand even though Walter vehemently denied having anything to do with the robbery. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison for the robbery.
For 70 years Walter claimed his innocence and that he was not even in town on the day of the robbery. Like most prisoners, Walter’s pleas fell on deaf ears. Then one day out of nowhere something remarkable happened. Several thousand of dollars of the stolen money surfaced in old mason jars buried in a backyard of a known criminal.
The man who used to live in the home, Leonard Anderson, was a career petty criminal who died in Vietnam. Jars of money were found in the backyard of the home he used to live when the house was being leveled for new construction. Authorities confirmed that the serial numbers on the bills matched the missing money.
When authorities recovered a picture of Anderson they were taken aback. Leonard Anderson was a dead ringer for Walter Billings. When Walter’s new legal team got a copy of the picture, the wheels started turning for him to be released. It took one more long year for Walter to be pardoned. After spending 70 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Walter has filed a civil suit against the city of Minneapolis for a staggering $400 million dollars. “They took my entire life and then some when they threw me in jail. If there is any settlement money, I may not be around to spend it. Upon my death I leave everything to the Innocence Project to help people just like me get out of prison. If I can help one other, then my time on earth was well spent”, said Walter Billings.
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