I am only asking for fundamental fairness. Many of us charged with task involving lesser human consequences have exhibit more integrity when it comes to double-checking our work. Why are so many people in power afraid to double-check (if only once) this DNA test?
In March 2007, the SJC held that the “main issue at trial was the identity of the perpetrator.” The jury’s verdict hinged on a paranoid schizophrenic woman pointing her finger at me. After referring to the “unusual circumstances of this case,” the SJC noted, “What is exculpatory is that the Commonwealth could not place the defendant in the victim’s apartment by means of any evidence, including any fingerprint or other physical evidence.”
As for biographical notes, I have no history of violence. I grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist home. In High School, I was elected president of the Latino student body. I was arrested 21 days after being discharged under Honorable condition by the US Army. In the years of active duty, I contributed the topmost number of monthly dollars to quality for the maximum GI Bill educational matching funds. (23 years later, I have the college papers and brochure which I obtain in those 21 days of civilian life.) After the trial, the judge trial ordered an independent psychiatric evaluation for aid in sentencing. Dr. Lawrence M. Hipshman said, “LaGuer does not fit neither a psychological nor patholocal profile of a person capable of committing this crime.” (In prison, I obtained a BA degree from Boston University, magna cum laude.)
As a result of the role my case had on the 2006 gubernatorial race, the victim’s caretaker had step forward with astonishing new information. For months before the trial and years afterward, whenever Annie Demartino “went out in public” with the victim, “everybody she [saw] who was either Spanish or black, she would say, ‘that’s who did it, what’s who did it,’ and of course it wasn’t, because they were just people in the street.” This is significant because I was the only colored person in the courtroom. According to Demartino, the victim was a paranoid schizophrenic. Yet her history of mental disease was excluded from the jury because the prosecutor, currently a superior court judge, mischaracterized her condition. He claim that the victim had had no “psychiatric problems” for “at least two years prior to this incident. . . ”
When a Telegram & Gazette reporter asked one of the twelve white men who served on the jury to reflect on the trial in 2001, juror Stephen J. Martin said, “The life sentence showed the judge agree with the verdict. We saw an animal, and he saw the same animal.” This is only one example of what twelve man had in mind. These jurors would have ordered me lynched if the law had empowered them. What “animal” accused of raping a white woman would have had any legal rights that those jurors were bound to respect. (There was nothing in my biography for those jurors to degrade me to “animal” status. What they “saw” was the stench of their own hate filled hearts.) In one sworn affidavit, one juror said that another juror had immediately remarked, “The goddamned spic is guilty just sitting there; look at him. Why bother having a trial.” Jurors even joked about the sexual prowess of colored man in evaluating the violent crime.
If only for the preceding paragraphs, I hope that you might be willing to set aside a few hours to review the case file. I do not want you to make a judgment in haste. I pray that God will have already planted in your heart the seed of curiosity. I am asking you to devote your time and energies to ensure truth and justice, and not for me to be free. My freedom will be a byproduct of good people standing up for justice.
I have written Governor Deval Patrick a series of private letters, saying to him that I will not seek nor will I accept a governor’s pardon. Governor Patrick has negatively affected and chilled our dealings with state agencies. For example, in December 2006, I made a public appeal for the State Police crime lab to double-check the DNA test in light of new scientific evidence that called into question the validity of that test. As reported in the Boston Herald, Patrick issued a statement that his administration will not intervene. (12/8/06) But, in this case, nobody should assume that me asking the State Police to correct a human error is equal to me asking Patrick for special favors. That is however the recipe for sustaining a wrongful conviction.
There is simply no reason why Governor Patrick should be so actively distancing himself. A historical consensus is emerging that Patrick won as much as his opponent lost the gubernatorial race. How candidate Kerry Healey conducted herself, in a mud slinging style of Republican playbooks, backfired with the electorate. This left Patrick, in a largely issue free campaign, standing to reap the governorship. When the Boston Globe recently reported on the SJC upholding my conviction, the lead paragraph said that my case “dogged Deval Patrick during his gubernatorial campaign last fall but may ultimately have helped him win.” (3/24/07) I have never been disloyal to this gifted and generous man, even after the tire marks of his political truck was quite visibly across my back. As reported in the Telegram, I was offered $60,000 then $100,000 by the Healey campaign to release to them Patrick’s undisclosed private letters. (10/31/06) I would have refused a million dollars. The soul of my father’s name would never be for sale in such a manner.
Dr. Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Patrick’s chief of staff, wrote a letter to the parole board in 1998 that I was to her “a talented writer, an intelligent advocate, and a man whose experience and life lessons make him a valuable member of the community.” All of this may have changed not on account of anything I did, but what Republicans did against my biography with their election playbooks.
For 23 years, I have been learning new ways to be trusting of God and His mysterious plan. His play is unfolding. I think that plan includes this letter arriving to your hands. In 1955, a 14 year old boy named Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi because he allegedly whistled at a white woman. His murderers got away because nobody would bare witness. In 2007, I have served 23 years falsely in prison because I lived next door to a white woman. And those who did me wrong have done all they could to divert attention. They have had their thumbs on the scale, often fearless and quite open to the naked eyes. Police and prosecutors could have only done this because they had the ability to sense the indifference of the community.
I live with the hope that God will not have allow me to die in prison before His plan achieves its end. Once the truth is revealed, in all its light, I have no doubt that my case will be on par with those of the most egregious injustices in the annals of Massachusetts, including that of Nicola Sacco & Bartolomea Vanzetti.
Finally, I would like for you to visit the website which is devoted to posting information about my case. Please read in particular a paper entitled Errors in the Ben LaGuer DNA Analysis for a detailed and full appreciation of the case. There are a series of testimonials also worthy of your reading. After you have done all that, I would ask you to pray. From this place, I will also pray that God may reveal to you what to do next; perhaps you would desire to meet with me face to face or engage in a conversation with other members of the community. Please feel free to write to me for such references and other study materials. I would ask you and others to pray for how best to serve truth and justice, and not for how I might individually benefit.
Please share widely!