Here’s a globe editorial from March 24, 1994. It contains a lot of information not being reported here. I’ve highlighted the things I haven’t seen yet in this recent discussion.
When Benjamin Laguer was sentenced in 1984 to life in prison for raping a Leominster neighbor, the jury ruled without a shred of physical evidence linking him to the crime. Later, the judge dismissed allegations that racist remarks had been made by the jury after questioning only four of the 12 jurors, and despite one member’s affidavit asserting that explicit racial insults had been made.
In mid-November, the Massachusetts Appeals Court heard arguments for Laguer’s right to a new trial. The court promised that a decision would be made within four months. It has missed its deadline.
The evidence for a new trial is overwhelming. William Nowick, one of the 12 white male jurors in Laguer’s trial, signed an affidavit recalling these remarks by the jury’s foreman: “The goddamned spic is guilty just sitting there. Look at him. Why even bother having a trial.” When jurors speculated as to how the eight-hour rape could continue for so long, Nowick says that the same juror said: “Spics screw all day and night.”
During the trial, Leominster police asserted that all their evidence, including fingerprints and the victim’s pocketbook, had been lost. The prosecution’s case rested on the victim’s identification of Laguer in a photo lineup.
But the victim, a diagnosed schizophrenic who was taking pain medication when she fingered Laguer, had trouble distinguishing between white and black men during the trial. Evidence of her mental state was deemed inadmissable.
Clearly, the prosecution fell far short of meeting the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But the foreman’s alleged statements suggest that Laguer’s Puerto Rican heritage was the most damning evidence against him.
Whether Laguer, who has spent ten years in prison, is guilty of the brutal crime he was convicted of remains a matter for the courts to decide. That Laguer should be granted a new trial is not a matter of debate.
The only way to combat lies and innuendo is by getting the facts out.