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Friday, March 23, 2007
By Jonathan Saltzman and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the 24-year-old rape conviction of Benjamin LaGuer, whose case dogged Governor Deval Patrick during his successful campaign last fall.
In a unanimous decision, the court rejected an argument for a new trial based on an 18-year-old State Police report that an appellate attorney said showed that four fingerprints found at the crime scene did not belong to LaGuer.
"We conclude that, in the unusual circumstances of this case, the fingerprint evidence that was not produced has not been shown to have any bearing on the defendant's guilt or innocence, and is consequently not exculpatory as to this defendant," wrote Justice Judith Cowin in the decision for the court.
On the day of Patrick's inauguration in January, attorney James C. Rehnquist lawyer argued before the SJC that LaGuer should get a new trial because the police report showed that investigators recovered four fingerprints from the base of a telephone, the cord of which was used to bind a 59-year-old rape victim in her Leominster apartment complex. Rehnquist said that none of the prints matched LaGuer's and argued that the evidence might have swayed the Worcester County jury if it had heard it.
LaGuer was convicted in 1984 of repeatedly raping and sodomizing the woman over an eight-hour period. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey pilloried Patrick during the campaign for twice writing the state Parole Board on LaGuer's behalf over the past decade and for donating $5,000 to help pay for DNA testing.
LaGuer and his advocates, who have included John Silber, former Boston University president, have questioned the validity of the DNA test, which has never been examined by a court. Several forensic specialists contacted by LaGuer say the DNA evidence may have been tainted. LaGuer contends that investigators mixed items from the victim's apartment with underwear seized from his apartment next door.
Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk at 10:42 AM