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Murder witness tells why he recanted

Shawn Drumgold, right, with his mother Juanda and brother Stephen Shanks, outside federal court in Boston yesterday as testimony began in his civil rights lawsuit against Boston police. Shawn Drumgold, right, with his mother Juanda and brother Stephen Shanks, outside federal court in Boston yesterday as testimony began in his civil rights lawsuit against Boston police. (JOSH REYNOLDS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Email|Print| Text size + By Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / March 6, 2008

A key witness who helped convict Shawn Drumgold of the slaying of 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore in a notorious 1988 Boston shooting testified yesterday that he made up his testimony after detectives fed him information and food, put him up at a hotel free, and cleared up a handful of outstanding arrest warrants.

Ricky Evans, a 38-year-old former nursing home cook, told a federal jury that in 2003 he recanted his testimony from Drumgold's murder trial in state court, helping to free him after 15 years in prison, out of a gnawing sense of guilt.

"It was constantly on my mind," Evans, of Cambridge, said in US District Court in Boston. "I lied. I had something to do with a man being in prison for something he didn't do."

Evans was the first witness called by Drumgold's lawyer after she and lawyers defending two retired Boston detectives made opening statements in Drumgold's lawsuit accusing the Police Department of violating his civil rights.

Drumgold contends that the two retired detectives, Timothy Callahan and Richard Walsh, withheld evidence that could have cleared him and manipulated witnesses, leading to what prosecutors later described as a wrongful conviction.

"Shawn Drumgold spent 15 years in jail because the defendants, Detective Walsh and Detective Callahan, thought they were above the law," Drumgold's lawyer, Rosemary Scapicchio, told the 13-member jury. She said the defendants "should finally be held accountable for their actions."

But lawyers for Walsh and Callahan countered that both were decent, hard-working detectives who did nothing wrong.

Hugh R. Curran, one of five private lawyers hired by the city to defend the officers and the Police Department, said Walsh tirelessly investigated the killing of Moore, which came to symbolize an epidemic of drug-fueled street violence in Boston.

The girl was struck by two stray bullets, one in the head and one in the back, as she sat on a mailbox on a Roxbury street corner, talking to friends, on the night of Aug. 19, 1988. Two gunmen wearing Halloween masks fired at a crowd in what police believed was a gang shooting.

Curran said that Walsh and Callahan, both seated in the courtroom behind defense lawyers, "worked this case within the rules to the best of their abilities."

Callahan's city-hired lawyer, Mary Jo Harris, said witnesses who recanted in Suffolk Superior Court five years ago lacked credibility. "The suggestion that Tim Callahan planted this story [with Evans] is not going to withstand scrutiny," she said.

Under questioning by Scapicchio, Evans said Callahan and another detective, Paul McDonough, fed him information that became the basis of his testimony at Drumgold's 1989 murder trial. McDonough is not being sued.

Evans said he met Callahan in December 1988, four months after Moore's slaying, because the detective was investigating a shooting that wounded Evans and killed his cousin. Drumgold and another man, Terrance Taylor, had been arrested in Moore's slaying, but Scapicchio said the evidence against them was flimsy.

Evans, who had no home at the time, said he had no firsthand knowledge about the killing of Moore. Callahan showed him photographs of Drumgold, Taylor, and a third man, Theron "Apple" Davis, and asked if they were involved.

Evans said yesterday that he told Callahan that people in Roxbury believed that Davis was the killer, but the detective insisted it was Drumgold.

"It was like he was possessed with Shawn," Evans said.

In exchange for Evans's cooperation, Callahan arranged for him to stay free at a Howard Johnson's hotel in Dorchester for eight months, gave him cash repeatedly to buy food and clothes, and somehow wiped out six outstanding district court charges for crimes including trespassing and drug dealing. Scapicchio contends that Drumgold's trial lawyer was unaware of the special treatment and could have used it to impugn Evans's credibility.

Evans testified that Callahan and McDonough also met with him several times at the hotel restaurant. As the two detectives talked to one another, he said, they indirectly fed him details about the case.

"They wouldn't directly say it to me," Evans recalled. "It was, 'So-and-so had a white car."

At the murder trial, Evans had said he ran into Drumgold and Taylor near the crime scene shortly before and after the shooting and that both were armed and acting "strange."

Only Drumgold was convicted. No witness placed Taylor at the scene.

Drumgold said yesterday that the testimony rekindled painful memories.

"I just hope the truth comes out and people are held responsible," he said.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.

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