Let me take your points one at a time.
… of course I (and you) lack any personal knowledge of what happened at the scene of the crime.
This is both true and a truism. Very few cases don’t require the power of deduction to arrive at the closest approximation to the truth as possible. Theories can be ruled in and ruled out, and the relative merit of different theories can be evaluated and discussed. On thing I can say is that I have spent time at the crime scene, which, according to what I’ve heard, is more than LaGuer’s original (Worcester-based) lawyer can say.
…the question whether the exclusion was an abuse of discretion was a matter for direct appeal and is now settled…
I tend to think you are right on this one. But I could see an argument based on the idea that scientific and popular understanding of mental illness has evolved since LaGuer’s direct appeal on this issue ran its course, and could therefore be revisited.
I take it she was “unavailable” because she simply did not come forward until now. Is that right? If so, again, I don’t see much of an issue here.
I’m not going to engage with this question (see below). LaGuer has lawyers and I’m not one of them. I’ll leave it to them to figure out what the legal issues are. That doesn’t mean I’m not very curious to see what they come up with.
Skipping back to the start of your post.
I think you are interested in more than considering whether “justice was done” here as an exercise in journalism. You would like to get LaGuer out of prison, which makes the legal stuff important.
I came to the case as a journalist, following it in the build up to the 2002 DNA test. I continued to maintain a certain emotional distance from LaGuer’s fate for some time after the test. I did a ton of research and reporting. At a certain point I grew frustrated by the fact that insights I had gained into the case were (and that I was) being ignored by the journalistic establishment. I started posting to BenLaGuer.com taking pains to put up as much in the way of original documents relating to the case as possible. I also went to visit people associated with the case such as John Silber. In that kind of an encounter I wasn’t the journalist asking questions, but the bearer information I wanted him to hear. He listened, understood, and ended up testifying for LaGuer at his 2003 parole hearing (after! the DNA test). So this kind of an encounter scrambled my role. I also corresponded with the pro bono committee at the law firm that ended up taking LaGuer’s case, responding to questions they had about the history of the case. Again, I was answering questions, not asking them. In time outlets became available to me to write about the case. Not the least of those was Blue Mass Group. I registered a year ago this month not knowing about the political firestorm that was to ensue. The Valley Advocate out my way also decided to give me a forum and gave me free range to write about the case almost at will. My first article (a cover story) appeared there last August. The MetroWest Daily News oped page has also been good to me in allowing me to express myself on aspects of this case. After the SJC decision in March I took stock of my involvement with the case and decided to distance myself emotionally and to concentrate on documenting what I have come to see as high drama. It is no secret that I believe LaGuer’s trial was critically flawed and that his claims to factual innocence have merit. These conclusions are based on research, not instinct or ideology. If I or anyone else discovers new facts that change my mind, fine. So far that hasn’t happened. So yes, I don’t think LaGuer belongs in jail. Does that mean I want to see him get out? How would you answer that question given what I’ve said?
In case you haven’t noticed, a vocal lobby for LaGuer’s cause has emerged. John Hosty and Susan Wadia-Ells (two BMG denizens) created the Free Ben LaGuer Now Committee and teamed up with Community Change in Cambridge to create a structure to raise money. I can report that according to Wadia-Ells, she has received two checks so far totaling $2,000. She set an initial goal of $10,000 and is well on her way. She has also heard from people who want to help out, so the group is growing.
I’ve decided to go back to being a journalist on the case, glad for the front row seat I have on a truly fascinating drama.