Wednesday, March 25, 2009

After 17 Years, Richard Lapointe Has a Win in Court

I'm guessing that most people who read this blog aren't familiar with Richard Lapointe. It's not surprising, since he's been incarcerated for about 17 years, convicted of the rape and murder of his wife's grandmother.

(the picture on the upper left hand side of this post is of Richard Lapointe on the left and Bob Perske on the right. Bob Perske was the first person I who told me about Richard Lapointe's legal battle, over thirteen years ago. Bob has been the most constant of the many people fighting for Lapointe.)

Richard has Dandy-Walker syndrome and hydrocephalus. He's physically clumsy and socially awkward. He is also the person who called the police to ask them to check on the grandmother, who hadn't answered the door when he knocked.

He was initially questioned and dismissed as a suspect. For two years, the police thought they had a good idea who did commit the crime - someone with a violent history consistent with the crime, but whose whereabouts was unknown. When that person did surface, it turned out his blood type didn't match the physical evidence at the scene.

With the case now two years worth of "cold," the police refocused on Lapointe. They interrogated him for 9 1/2 hours, sending him home in the early morning hours - after he'd signed three confessions. Only after he returned from work the next day did they arrest him. He's been in some jail or other ever since.

Throughout the years, various appeals have been put forth on his behalf. Two of the main arguments are that he had incompetent/inadequate legal representation. The other part of the appeal rests mainly on the - now upheld - claim that the prosecutors suppressed exculpatory evidence.

Here is an excerpt from a news story just out on the Hartford Courant:
The state Appellate Court ruled today that a Superior Court judge was wrong to dismiss Richard Lapointe's 2007 petition for a retrial, a decision that could get Lapointe a new trial in the 22-year-old murder case.

Lapointe was convicted in 1992 for the rape, stabbing and murder of his then-wife's grandmother, Bernice Martin, 88, of Manchester. He is serving a life term without the possibility of parole.

For years, many have questioned whether police fingered the right suspect, arguing that Lapointe, who has diminished mental capacity, was physically and mentally unable to commit the crime.

Lapointe's supporters and a lawyer from a national group that represents those it believes are wrongfully convicted, have pushed for a new trial for Lapointe, who has spent the past 17 years at MacDougall -- Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield.

The lawyer, Paul Casteleiro of New Jersey, represented Lapointe in a hearing for a new trial in July 2007. During the hearing, Casteleiro argued that his client, now 63, deserved a new trial on the grounds that his public defenders in 1989 did not provide him with adequate representation and that his lawyer, in a bid for a new trial in 2000, was ineffective.
For more information on the long history of the legal battles waged on behalf of Richard Lapointe, please check out the Friends of Richard Lapointe website.

More information as I get it. And I will try not to let so much time go between posts this time. Work and life have a way of eating up all of my time and energy. --Stephen

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