Thursday, December 28, 2006

Year End Thoughts on William Styron and Ben LaGuer

(cross posted at Blue Mass Group)

As the year comes to an end with the passing of several notables in quick succession, I can't help but remember others who passed from the scene this year. Among them was author William Styron, who died on November first. The date happens to have been in the middle of a campaign in which now Governor Elect Deval Patrick was being pilloried for having supported Ben LaGuer's parole bids. In looking through my files this evening I came across this letter.

(See larger image at
Blue Mass Group)

Much happened in LaGuer's life since that letter was written, including a 2002 DNA test which seemed to place LaGuer at the scene of the rape he steadfastly denies committing. When I started looking into that DNA test I found that it was totally unreliable because, as has since been noted by several highly regarded DNA experts, items from his apartment were improperly mixed with the rest of the evidence.

But that's not the point of this post. Once I started putting the pieces together I contacted people who had supported Ben before that botched DNA test. Styron was among them. I was a little apprehensive about intruding into Styron's life and at the same time curious about the depth of his concerns regarding Ben's plight. Styron not only took my call graciously and lingered to chat, but he expressed genuine curiosity about the case and how it was going. To him it didn't take a huge leap of imagination to entertain the idea that the supposed scientific certainty of a DNA test might be compromised by human frailty. It was a very heartening conversation at a time when it was hard to get people to listen.

Next week LaGuer's case goes before the Supreme Judicial Court on the very day Patrick will shed the "elect" part of his title and be sworn in as governor of the commonwealth. Rediscovering this letter reminded me that Patrick was in very good company when he advocated on Ben's behalf in the run up to his parole dates.

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