Journalist Edward Mowery Gets a Scoop and Frees Louis Hoffner Part 1

About the journalist and investigative reporter Edward Mowery who helped free Louis Hoffner an innocent man.



Dateline: New York, N.Y., Nov. 21, 1952.

By-line: Edward J. Mowery. A top investigative reporter with the New York World-Telegram and Sun in the 1940s and 1950s, he won, for his work on the Hoffner case, the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting not under deadline pressure. He also was the first reporter ever to win the New York Criminal-Civil Courts Association's award for outstanding service in the cause of justice.

The Big Beat: Ed Mowery got his "tip" in the Hoffner case because he was a good reporter. In 1945, a series of his articles had helped vindicate Bertram M. Campbell, a Wall Street broker falsely convicted of forgery. Mowery's work revealed a case of mistaken identity and eventually won for Campbell a special pardon and state compensation for false imprisonment.

Mowery was then besieged with woeful tales from other prisoners. Hoffner's appeal caught his interest partly because the convict said that a patrolman and a former assistant district attorney believed him.

In January, 1941, Hoffner, a 28-year-old assistant theater manager, had been convicted of the 1940 murder of a Queens, N.Y., bar owner. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Despite Hoffner's prior conviction for larceny, Mowery came to believe that there had been a miscarriage of justice. His first article suggesting that the police had framed Hoffner appeared on May 29, 1947, in what was then the New York World-Telegram.

The story required some craftiness. When officials at New York's Dannemora prison refused to let Mowery see Hoffner, the reporter got in by tagging along with the assistant district attorney and posing as his aide. Prison officials also forbade correspondence between Hoffner and Mowery. Mowery evaded the ban by inserting his questions into letters that others sent to Hoffner.

In the course of his investigation, Mowery learned that only one vacillating witness had identified Hoffner as the killer; that this witness had picked him out in an extremely crude lineup procedure and now admitted doubts about his identification; that three friends who were with Hoffner in Brooklyn around the time of the murder were never called as witnesses; and that two men who saw the killer flee were also never called.

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