July 19, 1957
The jury convicted Wallace LeRoy Schiers of second-degree murder on July 18, 1957. But Schiers continued to insist that he did not kill his wife. He said: “I have nothing on my conscience. Somewhere along the line I have got to be exonerated. I am not guilty.”
He was sentenced to five years to life in prison, serving four years in prison and four years’ probation.
But the story is not over. Schiers appealed his conviction while in prison and although his case was rejected by the California Supreme Court, he continued to fight the case even after six years of freedom.
The basis of Schiers’ argument was police testimony about his polygraph test, which was inadmissible in court. Schiers acted as his own attorney, arguing before the state Court of Appeal that the judge’s order to strike the testimony and instructions to the jury to ignore it were not enough. Schiers’ argued that since the polygraph testimony had come up in his preliminary trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Evan Lewis knew about it and should have taken steps to prevent it from being introduced in court.
Although the Court of Appeal rejected his plea and the state Supreme Court refused to hear his case, state Supreme Court Justice Jesse W. Carter wrote a dissenting opinion saying: “By this decision the California judiciary invited repetition of such open debauchery of basic fairness to the discredit of the bench and bar. In my opinion it amounts to denial of due process of law.”
Schiers’ next action was to claim that he had not been furnished with counsel and had to act as his own attorney. He also tried to take the matter before the federal courts but was unsuccessful.
Finally, after a prolonged legal battle, the Court of Appeal reversed Schiers’ conviction in 1971 because of the inadmissible testimony about the polygraph results.
“The court noted the police officer’s testimony did not come as a surprise to the prosecution,” The Times said. “An augmentation of the appeal record allowed by the appellate court showed that police had referred to the lie-detector test in Schiers’ preliminary hearing before trial.
“Thus, in the court’s view, the prosecutor was on notice and should have guarded against any such testimony being presented in the presence of the jury at the trial.
“The fact that he did not indicated that the error was intentional and invited by the prosecution.”
“The error was so prejudicial that the judgment must be reversed,” the court ruled.
Wallace LeRoy Schiers reestablished himself in the aerospace industry. He died Oct. 5, 1994 in Nevada.
Note: I had two votes for not guilty, no votes for guilty. Thanks, gentlemen.