Thursday, July 03, 2008

1983 Photo of Ben LaGuer Surfaces

United States Army Veteran Benjamin LaGuer

This picture in it's stillness and silence speaks of who Ben LaGuer was, and still is. It suggests something very different than the distorted version of LaGuer given to us by Kerry Healey's mudslinging gubenatorial campaign against Governor Patrick.

His determination to clear his name of a 1984 rape conviction has kept him in prison for the last 25 years, and he is serving a life sentence. All along the way LaGuer has had opportunity after opportunity to take an easier way out by confessing, starting with the 2 year plea bargain they tried to hand him. Year after year the parole board has denied LaGuer's parole because of his stand.

When I became involved in LaGuer's case it was because I had asked myself some key questions and found no answer:

This man does not fit the profile of a rapist and was deemed not sexualy dangerous by the prison psychiatrist, who stops just short of saying the must have the wrong man. Where is LaGuer's motive?

"In talking with him at some length and in reading the report and trying to compare the action with his own history as I understand it at least, it does not appear to me that he is a sexually dangerous person. I know that the attack, even as he described it, must have been a very brutal one, but it seems totally out of character that this man would have done it. I cannot , of course, dispute the court and I have no way of looking at the court testimony or any Grand Jury testimony or anything of that kind. Nevertheless in view of all this, it is my belief at least that he is not a sexually dangerous person and I recommend no further action on that question at this time."

Sincerely yours,

Daniel M. Weiss, M.D.

“LaGuer does not fit either a psychological or pathological profile of a person capable of committing this crime,” Dr. Lawrence Hipshmen, Superior Court appointed Psychiatrist.

Why would a guilty man keep himself in prison in order to protect his honor at the cost of his freedom?

“I’ve been with Ben LaGuer during court hearings that never worked in his favor, and I’ve felt his pain and anguish. Yet still he maintains his dignity and respect,” Minister Don Muhammad, Nation of Islam.

Why is a United States Army Veteran is not afforded the same review of his DNA analysis as others have already had in 2007?

“In LaGuer’s case it appears that the police collection and testing of evidence was far short of professional,” Eddie Jenkins, President, Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association.

How did we convict a man with no physical evidence?

“As a woman who herself is the victim of a violent crime…I am not one to have sympathy for men who do us violence. I have had to look through my own pain to see the truth of Mr. LaGuer’s situation,” Stacy Amaral.

Here is a portion of a rather detailed paper that explains the errors made in the LaGuer case. Whether you believe LaGuer is innocent or not the paper brings to light some very disturbing problems in our legal system and makes those who read it wonder if this could one day happen to them or their loved ones.

Errors in the Ben LaGuer DNA Analysis and Other Issues Affecting the Verdict’s Integrity

DNA testing did not clear U.S. Army veteran Ben LaGuer of a 1983 interracial rape, as it should have, because Worcester County prosecutors provided the wrong samples to the State Police Crime Lab. Naturally, the analysis could not lead to a correct result. Forensic Science Associates (FSA), in 2002, derived its conclusions based on DNA taken – not from crime scene evidence – but evidence taken from Ben LaGuer during the police investigation.
Why did prosecutors deliberately obstruct DNA proof of LaGuer’s actual innocence? It is important because no other evidence links him to the crime, but more so this case was a factor in swaying the historic 2006 Gubernatorial race. In 2007 the state highest court held “that the commonwealth could not place the defendant in the victim’s apartment by means of any evidence, including fingerprints or any other physical evidence.

According to Telegram columnist Dianne Williamson, Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte’s “penchant for paranoia and secrecy is just plain weird, and sometimes irresponsible. His office is triple-locked and stacked with television monitors.” (1/26/06)
This secrecy led defense attorneys not to recognize that the DNA used in the testing derived from articles collected from LaGuer and his bedroom during the police investigation, not DNA extrapolated from actual crime scene evidence. Any assertion that the DNA test “further linked him to the rape” is thus inaccurate. The Telegram articulated LaGuer’s need for a forensic review;

“Several forensic experts have said the minimal amount of genetic material identified in the analysis is consistent with contamination. The state police did not perform the analysis in Mr. LaGuer’s case, but the lab was responsible for preparing and labeling the samples for testing. Mr. LaGuer says hairs taken from a jersey he was wearing when he was arrested were mislabeled and pooled with crime scene evidence, resulting in the positive DNA match that led many of his past supporters away. He cites testimony from the lead detective in the case, who described Mr. LaGuer donning a jersey when being questioned about the crime. ‘How could I be wearing the shirt on Friday when I was arrested, and 18 years later the shirt is labeled as found at the feet of the victim three days earlier?

Dr. Daniel L Hartl, a prominent DNA expert at Harvard, after examining LaGuer’s DNA test history in 2005, said, ”...(if) articles taken from LaGuer and/or from his bedroom were mislabeled and mixed together with actual samples taken directly from the victim, then the DNA evidence is of no value, even if the sample were mixed by mistake.”

The Boston Herald subsequently reported that “forensic reports linking him to the crime are invalid because authorities matched his DNA to samples taken from his apartment – not from the original rape kit. Several DNA experts hired by LaGuer’s team have bolstered his claim.”

DNA Evidence Was Mishandled and Contaminated

Leominster Police Detective Ronald N. Carignan testified that, three days after the crime, LaGuer was taken into custody donning a sport jersey shirt. The 1983 lab notes indicate that “3 hairs” were collected from this jersey and “mounted” on lab slides. A State Police trooper collected the only “yellow cotton jersey” related to this case in May 1989 from the local police. However in May 2000, the jersey was mislabeled as located “at the feet of the victim.”
In a June 2000 affidavit, DNA expert Peter Neufeld says he was “...told there is only a single hair that has semen on it. The swabs and remaining slides have tested negative for the presence of sperm.”

If you are interested in reading the rest of this paper or in being more involved in helping with this cause here are some links for you to use:

Errors paper
Attorney General's office
Governor Patrick's office

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