Posthumous pardon for man wrongly hanged of murder – landmark action in the history of the Irish State
American relatives relieved; Massachusetts pathologist helped establish time of death that supported alibi
January 14, 2015 DUBLIN – The confirmation that Harry Gleeson, who was hanged in 1941 and will be given the first posthumous pardon by the Irish State, was welcomed by the Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College, the Justice for Harry Gleeson group, and the American pathologist who helped prove his alibi – as his American relatives express relief and gratitude.
Mr. Gleeson was charged, tried and convicted for the murder of Mary “Moll” McCarthy in 1940 and sentenced to death by hanging in 1941. However evidence uncovered through the work of the Irish Innocence Project and the Justice for Harry Gleeson Group has resulted in the first posthumous pardon in the history of the Irish State.
David Langwallner, Dean of Law at Griffith College, Director and founder of the Irish Innocence Project, said, “Nothing can adequately comfort those who have fought to exonerate Harry Gleeson but this posthumous pardon and the clearing of the good name of Mr Gleeson is a proud moment for everyone involved.” David Langwallner worked on the case in conjunction with Griffith college student caseworker Tertius Van Eeden.
Both Irish and American relatives of Gleeson – including a law professor and Hollywood director – have expressed relief that the Irish government is finally taking steps to correct this injustice. Gleeson was one of 12 children and the siblings decided not to tell his mother what happened to him so she could never figure out why he stopped showing up for Christmas.
Christine Chung, an associate professor of law at Albany Law School who is the great, grandniece of Gleeson, said,
“My mother Patricia Sgarlata, nee Sheehan, emigrated to the United States when he (Harry) was 17, and despite her close ties (then and now) to her Gleeson relatives, we were unaware of Mr. Gleeson’s tragic case. Perhaps it was just too painful for my mother’s father’s family to discuss when my mother was growing up. I learned of Mr. Gleeson’s exoneration from a relative in Drangan – on Facebook, of all places. I simply wanted to convey my deep gratitude – as a lawyer and a relative for your tireless work. Now more than ever, justice and the rule of law. Though justice came too late to save Mr. Gleeson, having his name finally cleared means a great deal.”
Gleeson’s oldest sister Mary, who lived to be 107 but never saw her brother’s name cleared during her lifetime, moved to Patterson, NJ to help raise her daughter’s two children after their father died. Mary’s grandson George “Chip” Miller is a Hollywood director who has hoped to bring his grand uncle’s story to screen and contacted the Irish Innocence Project to express his gratitude that finally the family has witnessed some measure of justice, as well.
“When my Irish Grandmother passed at the age of 107, she finally revealed to my sisters and I, her long kept secret. She had a brother, Harry that we didn’t know existed, and tragically, he was hung for murder 50 years earlier, for a crime she knew he couldn’t commit. She carried that shame to her grave, though she held out hope till the end, that someday Harry would be exonerated. That day has arrived, thanks to the many family and friends who always believed in his innocence, and to the Irish Innocence Project for their tenacious passion, remarkable due diligence, and amazing hard work. As a Hollywood filmmaker and screenwriter, I could not ask for better collaborators in our mission now to bring Harry’s story to the world as an important film about an important subject. And to showcase the important work the Innocence Group is doing in the spirit of freedom and justice,” said Miller.
Miller’s sister Eileen Sellaro said of her grandmother Mary Gleason,
“She lived with this pain for many years, deep in her eyes there was sadness. She wrote to family in Ireland weekly. I wish she had saved the letters, most were in a lot of Gaelic, she visited home twice first I believe in 1961 and then again. With this great news of her brother who she believed never did this crime is letting her rest in peace.”
Having reviewed the trial transcripts and exhibits, which they obtained from the National Archives, as well as information provided by the Justice for Harry Gleeson Group, the Irish Innocence Project sought the pardon under the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 Section 9 and under a created posthumous pardon procedure.
Among the information presented in securing the pardon for Mr. Gleeson was evidence that:
The prosecution attempted, and indeed succeeded, in withholding information that showed a discrepancy in the prosecution case in particular a gun register
That arms of the State, namely the Gardai, encouraged witnesses to submit falsified statements and that the Gardai beat a witness during questioning.
The project procured forensic evidence from a US pathologist Dr. Peter Cummings which demonstrated that the real time of death Harry Gleeson had an alibi.
Dr. Peter Cummings, a forensic pathologist who lives in Beverly, Mass. and is one of only a select few who have had access to President Kennedy’s original autopsy materials and the slain president’s clothing, was a key to proving Harry Gleeson’s innocence. The Irish Innocence Project asked Dr. Cummings who is Director of Forensic Neuropathology at the Boston Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts, went to medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland’s oldest and most esteemed medical school and testifies as an forensic at trials around the country, to examine the autopsy and he established that the victim’s body temperature supported Gleeson’s alibi and innocence.
Also speaking was Prof. Diarmuid Hegarty, President of Griffith College, who said:
This case was a tragic miscarriage of justice and the hanging of Mr. Gleeson for a murder he never committed is a dark stain on the memory of the State. However his posthumous pardon shows that justice is not blind to injustice and on behalf of the Irish Innocence Project team who worked on this case I want to express our thanks to The Justice for Harry Gleeson group who brought this to the projects attention.