Your son comes home from Iraq and celebrates his twenty first birthday with his friends. In the course of the evening he and a friend visit several places to see old friends and drink. No one asks as they leave the last bar who is driving. Tragedy strikes. While driving home a little boy is run over and the car spins out of control, going off the road, flipping several times, ejecting both occupants. The boy who was hit and your son's friend die shortly after from their injuries. The officer that arrived at the scene says your son was the driver and is charging him with two counts of vehicular homicide, and aggravated drunk driving. When you son becomes conscious again he states that he was not the driver, but suddenly the blood evidence that would have proven him innocent is now missing. He is convicted on all counts with no physical evidence. He appeals for a new trial based on lost evidence, but his conviction seems to serve as proof of his guilt in the eyes of those whose job it is to administer justice on behalf of public good. The horror of the scene fuels public outrage, seeming to prevent him from getting justice.
Sound like a far fetched horror story? I have written this to parallel the case against Ben LaGuer, a man who had come back from serving in the army and just turned twenty years old when a heinous and violent crime was committed against his neighbor. When you take a look at this case without the assumption of guilt, the facts paint a very different picture than what we would expect of a man convicted of rape,and sentenced to life more than 23 years ago. In the rush to find the guilty party, many mistakes were made. Investigators may have come to another conclusion had they bothered to look further. When the facts of this case are laid out together they point to the strong possibility that we have jailed an innocent man, but they most certainly call for a second look, and a new trial.
On July 14, 1983 Leominster's Detective Carignan obtained a search warrant for Ben LaGuer's apartment by stating the victim said she saw the assailant enter Ben's apartment. Later the detective would tell a grand jury that the crime took place in Ben's apartment, and that the victim identified Ben by name. All three points have been refuted by the victim herself. She was shown a picture of Ben LaGuer by Detective Carignan while in her hospital bed still reeling from the attack and said it was the assailant. Later they would find out she has schizophrenia, a disease that causes it's sufferer to confuse similar people as being the same person. Then they find out that the police had found a likelier suspect that matched Ben's description so perfectly that his own father once mistook him for Ben at a distance. This man had previously lived in the building, had a history of sexually abusing family members, had already spent time in a mental institution, and since Ben has been behind bars, has gone on to be convicted of rape. No forensic evidence was ever found to link Ben to this crime. He was convicted solely on the victim's ability to identify him. She was 59 years old at the time, had problems with her vision along with the schizophrenia. The one piece of evidence that may have saved him was the phone that the assailant ripped off the wall only ten minutes before police arrived. The fingerprints on it that did not match Ben's. The test results were verified two days after the attack, yet District Attorney John Conte's office claimed the report was still not ready for the January trial six months later. The report dated July 16, 1983 surfaced 18 years after the conviction. The physical fingerprint evidence is still missing.
Ben Laguer has maintained his innocence all these years despite the fact that in doing so he keeps himself behind bars. Had he taken the plea bargain they offered,he could have been free in only two years. The parole board continues to reject him based solely on his claim of innocence. He continues to hope for a new trial. There are many more disturbing facts that I have not shared with you about this case. If you are interested in a more detailed account visit BenLaGuer.com. Before you look away to more pleasant subjects and decide not to involve yourself, remember that the same justice system that served Mr. LaGuer serves you as well. The statue of Justice is blindfolded so that she may listen to the facts without prejudice. She is not meant to be deaf or dumb to those facts, otherwise justice is not served.
You can contact District Attorney John Conte's office and voice your concerns by calling 508-775-8601, faxing 508-831-9899, by email email@example.com, or by writing to:
John Conte, District Attorney
Courthouse room 220
2 Main St.
Worcester, MA 01608
Let them know how you feel. If their case against Ben LaGuer has merit they should not fear a new trial, and that the questions in this case demand one.