Victims of the State

31 Cases

 Suffolk County, MA

Joseph Ward


Joseph Ward, also known as Joseph Winston, was convicted of being a purse-snatcher's accomplice after being identified by eyewitnesses. The purse-snatcher had been arrested in flagrante but jumped bail. After the purse-snatcher was caught a few months later, he revealed his accomplice who resembled Ward. Ward was pardoned in 1896 on the grounds of mistaken identity.  (CIPM) (CTI)  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Thomas Bram

July 14, 1896

(Federal Case)  Thomas M. Bram was sentenced to death for murdering three people aboard a ship on the high seas. The crime occurred about 2 a.m. aboard the Herbert E. Fuller, a cargo ship that was 750 miles into a voyage from Boston to Argentina. The victims were the captain, Charles I. Nash, his wife, Laura A. Nash, and the second mate, August W. Blomberg. All were hacked to death with an ax in the after house of the ship.
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 Suffolk County, MA

John H. Chance

Apr 4, 1898 (Boston)

John H. Chance and another man, Arthur Hagan, were tried for the murder of Charles Lamont Russell. Russell, a store clerk, was murdered during a robbery of Chapin's drug store. Chance was convicted while Hagan was acquitted. In 1905, Hagan confessed to committing the murder alone. Having been acquitted, Hagan could not be retried. Further investigation corroborated the truth of Hagan's confession. In 1911, the Governor pardoned Chance.  (CIPM) (CTI)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

John McManus

Feb 8, 1911

Boston police officer, Joseph Balk, observed a man, John Shorey, chasing and shooting at another man, John McManus. Shorey, a sheriff's deputy from Conway, NH, claimed that McManus, an unemployed immigrant, had stolen his watch. McManus said Shorey was upset over an argument with a woman, and giving vent to his anger, had attacked him. Police and a jury chose to believe Shorey and McManus was sentenced to three years imprisonment for robbery.

Months later, Shorey returned to Boston, got drunk, and was arrested for engaging in similar behavior as McManus had claimed. Balk happened to hear of the arrest and brought his suspicions to the DA. After an investigation, the DA concluded that McManus was innocent. On the DA's recommendation, McManus was pardoned on Feb. 28, 1912.  (CIPM) (CTI)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Herbert T. Andrews


Herbert T. Andrews was charged with forging over 40 checks and convicted of forging 17 of them. Seventeen witnesses came forward and identified Andrews as the man who passed bad checks to them. While Andrews was imprisoned awaiting trial, similar bad checks continued to be passed in the Boston area. After police caught the perpetrator, Earle Barnes, he confessed to passing many of the checks for which Andrews was convicted. Andrews' trial prosecutor agreed to a new trial motion and nol prossed the indictment. Writing afterwards about the case, the trial prosecutor noted that Andrews and the actual perpetrator “were as dissimilar in appearance as could be. There was several inches difference in height and there wasn't a similarity about them. To this day I can't understand the positiveness of those witnesses.”  (CIPM) (CTI)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Gangi Cero

June 11, 1927

Gangi Cero, an Italian seaman, was convicted of the murder of Joseph Fantasia and sentenced to death. Following the conviction, Cero's brother discovered a witness who identified Cero's employer, Samuel Gallo, as the actual murderer. Gallo had a motive to kill Fantasia while Cero did not. This evidence secured a reprieve four hours before Cero's execution. In 1929, Cero was retried as Gallo's accomplice in a bizarre trial in which each defendant accused the other. Both defendants were acquitted.  (CIPM) (NY Times)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Arthur O'Connell

Convicted 1935 (Boston)

Arthur O'Connell was convicted of a sexual attack on a 13-year-old girl. The conviction was based on the testimony of the victim and her 13-year-old companion. A month after the conviction the companion confessed that they had perjured themselves “just for fun.” O'Connell had merely stopped to talk to the girls for a moment. O'Connell was released after a month's imprisonment.  (CIPM) (Not Guilty)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Deegan Four

Mar 12, 1965

Peter Limone, Joseph Salvati, Henry Tameleo, and Louis Greco were convicted in 1968 of the murder of Edward Deegan. At trial, the main witness against the four was Joseph Barboza, a hit man, who later admitted that he had fabricated much of his testimony. All except Salvati were sentenced to die but were spared when Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1974. Tameleo and Greco died in prison in 1985 and 1995.

Salvati was released in 1997 after the Governor commuted his sentence. Limone was released in 2001 after released FBI documents showed that informants had told the FBI before the murder that Barboza and another man would soon kill Deegan, and the FBI was also told after the murder that the same two men committed it. The FBI also knew that at the time of Deegan's murder, Greco and his wife were watching a movie at a theater in Miami, Florida.

Deegan was a small time thief. At the time of Deegan's killing, Tameleo and Limone were reputed leaders of the New England mob, while Greco and Salvati had minor criminal records. FBI agents Dennis Condon and H. Paul Rico not only withheld evidence of Barboza's fabricated testimony, but also told state prosecutors who were handling the Deegan murder investigation that they had checked out Barboza's story and it was true. Barboza was the first person ever accepted into the federal witness protection program. He was relocated to California, where he was involved in at least two more murders.

Agent Rico was arrested in 2003 on murder and conspiracy charges in the 1981 killing of Roger Wheeler, a former World Jai Alai owner. In 2004, he died in an Oklahoma prison while awaiting trial. John Connolly, Rico's replacement at the Boston FBI office, faces trial in Sept. 2007 for the 1982 murder of a former World Jai Alai president. In July 2007, Salvati, Limone, and the estates of Tameleo and Greco were awarded a combined total of $101.75 million, the largest wrongful conviction award in U.S. history.  (CIPM) (CIPM-G) (FJDB)  [7/07]

 Suffolk County, MA

George Reissfelder

Oct 14, 1966

George Reissfelder was convicted of participating in the murder of Michael Shaw. Shaw, a clerk, was shot through the head during a robbery of the Railway Express office in Boston's South Station. In 1972, Reissfelder's convicted codefendant confessed to a priest on his deathbed that he never met Reissfelder before trial, and asked the priest to apologize to him. In a 1982 hearing, defense attorneys assembled 10 witnesses including the priest in support of Reissfelder's innocence. Reissfelder's conviction was overturned and charges against him were dismissed.  (CIPM)  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Bobby Joe Leaster

Sept 27, 1970

Bobby Joe Leaster served 15 1/2 years of imprisonment for murdering variety store owner, Levi Whiteside, during the course of a robbery. The victim's wife and a store customer identified Leaster as the perpetrator. Ballistics evidence and new witnesses later cleared him. Leaster was awarded a $1 million annuity by the legislature in 1992.  (CIPM)  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Lawyer Johnson

Dec 17, 1971 (Roxbury)

Lawyer Johnson was convicted of the shooting murder of James Christian, 30, and sentenced to death. Another suspect in the murder, Kenneth Myers, claimed to have witnessed the shooting, and identified the photograph of the perpetrator. When the police told Myers that person he identified was in prison at the time of the shooting, Myers changed his story and told police that Johnson was the murderer. Myers told police that he himself had picked up the victim's gun after the victim was shot, and he took police to the place where he had hidden the gun. Myers claimed that he was with his girlfriend when he witnessed the murder, but he refused to divulge her name.

On appeal, the court granted Johnson a new trial, ruling that Myers should have been forced to divulge the name of other witnesses who were at the scene of the crime. At the new trial, Myers' girlfriend did not corroborate his account and a new witness testified that he saw Myers flee from the scene, but never saw Johnson. The jury however convicted Johnson again—this time of second-degree murder. This conviction was upheld on appeal.

Several years later, a 19-year-old woman named Dawnielle Montiero came forward and reported that she had witnessed the murder and that Myers was the killer. She said Johnson was not there that day. This witness had informed the police at the time of the murder about what she saw, but the police said that because she was only nine years old, her information was not important. Based on this new evidence, Johnson was granted yet another new trial. This time around, the prosecution dropped all charges and Johnson was released in 1982. In 1983, both houses of the Massachusetts legislature approved a bill providing $75,000 compensation to Johnson, but no final action was ever taken on this measure.  (CIPM)  [7/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Laurence Adams

Nov 27, 1972

Laurence Adams was convicted of robbing and beating to death MBTA transit worker James C. Corry during a robbery of cash boxes in the Essex Street subway station. Adams was sentenced to death but the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment in 1974 after the state's death penalty statute was ruled unconstitutional. One witness against Adams recanted before her death. Adams' defense also discovered that a key witness was incarcerated at the time he claimed he heard Adams confess in a Dorchester home to the murder. In 1980, Adam's lawyers uncovered concealed statements made to the police of a witness who identified two men other than Adams as the murderers. Adam's conviction was overturned in 2004 and he was released on bail.  (Boston Globe) (Seacoast)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Ella Mae Ellison

Nov 30, 1973

Ella Mae Ellison was convicted of murder and armed robbery in 1974. The crime involved the robbery of Suffolk Jewelers, a pawnshop on Washington St. in Roxbury. During the robbery, Detective John Schroeder, an off-duty police officer, entered the store and attempted to thwart the robbers. He was shot and killed. The 1997 Boston Police Headquarters is on “One Schroeder Plaza,” named in honor of Schroeder and his brother Walter, also an officer, who was killed responding to a bank alarm in 1970. In 1976, two key witnesses recanted their testimony against Ellison and claimed she was innocent. In 1978, an appeals court vacated her convictions because the prosecutor withheld evidence that could have exonerated her. Ellison was released in 1978.  (CIPM)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

James Rodwell

Dec 3, 1978 (Somerville)

James Rodwell was convicted in 1981 of the murder of Louis Rose, Jr., a drug dealer and the son of a Burlington police captain. No physical evidence linked Rodwell to the crime. The case against him relied on two witnesses: (1) Frankie Holmes, an immunized witness who drove the victim to the murder scene and drove away after the murder. (2) David Nagel, a prison informant, who had the opportunity to confer with Holmes prior to trial, when the two were incarcerated together. Both witnesses faced multiple life felony convictions on various charges.

At trial, Holmes' testimony conflicted with earlier statements he had given to investigators and the grand jury. Both witnesses' testimonies were riddled with discrepancies, inconsistencies, and errors. Nagel was a career informant. He had been charged with 37 armed robberies in the 1970s, a number which grew to 59 by the mid-1980s. He managed to sidestep lengthy sentences by aiding the police with tips and testimony. In prison, Rodwell had to endure taunts by other inmates, taunts that usually ended with the refrain, “Another one that Nagel got.”

The prosecution withheld a police report on a witness who stated another person committed the crime. The prosecutor and the state police told the witness, “If you remember what you saw, you will be charged as an accessory.”  (Website)  [2/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Christian Amado

Feb 4, 1980

Christian Amado was convicted of the shooting murder of 28-year-old George Sneed. The conviction was due to testimony that an eyewitness, Frederick Johnson, had selected a photo of Amado, had identified the assailant as “Bugsy,” and had associated the name “Bugsy” with Amado. When called to testify, Johnson readily answered a series of question on the sequence of events leading up to the murder. However, his testimony became evasive and confusing when asked about his previous identification of Amado. The prosecutor had to repeatedly refresh Johnson's “recollection of events,” by showing him what purported to be a transcript of statements he had given to police. Johnson appeared to deny identifying Amado and claimed that he had selected Amado's picture because it “looked familiar.” The prosecutor never asked Johnson if Amado was the killer. On cross-examination by defense counsel, Johnson denied that Amado was the killer or was present at the scene of the killing. Three detectives were called as witnesses and testified to Johnson's previous identification of Amado.

According to Amado's attorney, “The eyewitness in the case identified a photo that looked like Amado, but when he came into court and saw my client he said he knew Amado wasn't the killer.” In 1982, an appeals court ruled that the trial court erred in presenting contrary testimony to prove identification. It reversed Amado's conviction and directed a verdict of acquittal.  (CIPM) (Com v. Amado)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Ulysses Rodriguez Charles


Ulysses Rodriguez Charles, a Trinidad native, was convicted of raping three Brighton women. Charles has asserted that he was targeted by a police officer who had a vendetta against him. DNA tests exonerated him in 2003.  (CIPM) (IP)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Angel “Sammy” Toro

Apr 19, 1981 (Dorchester)

Angel S. Toro was convicted of robbing a Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge in Dorchester and murdering a clerk, Kathleen Downey, 47, during the course of the robbery. The crime occurred on Easter Sunday. The conviction was overturned in 2004 after two prosecution witnesses recanted their testimony and authorities admitted that a key police report was never given to Toro's counsel. Prosecutors dropped charges against Toro due to lack of evidence.  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Peter Vaughn

Jan 6, 1983

Peter C. Vaughn served three years for an armed robbery of a Star Market. Security cameras showed that the same perpetrator robbed the market two months later, when Vaughn was in custody. Nevertheless, the trial court denied a directed verdict of acquittal and the jury found him guilty. The Appeals Court for Suffolk County reversed Vaughn's conviction, and entered a verdict of acquittal. The court found that the “only rational explanation” for the evidence was that “the same person was involved in both robberies” and that Vaughn could not have committed the second one.  (CIPM) (Appeal)  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Louis Santos

Sept 28, 1983 (Dorchester)

Louis Santos was convicted of the armed robbery and felony murder of 32-year-old Colleen Maxwell. Maxwell, a social worker, had been escorting Charles Bartick, a retarded man with Down's syndrome, from a group home to the Ashmont MBTA station. Near the Ashmont station, three men robbed Maxwell of her purse. Maxwell then pursued the purse snatchers, but one of them shot her a few blocks away. Santos was convicted because of Bartick's extra-judicial identification of him as one of the purse snatchers. His conviction was overturned in 1988 because of this identification and because the trial judge refused to order a competency evaluation of Bartick. On retrial, Santos was acquitted.  (CIPM) (Archives)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Christina Hill

Aug 11, 1987

Christina Hill, 17, was convicted of poisoning to death 2-year-old Henry Gallop. Hill was convicted after Boston Herald reporter Michelle Caruso coerced a friend of Hill, Leslie Limehouse, 19, to give perjured testimony against her. When retried, Hill was acquitted.  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Shawn Drumgold

Aug 19, 1988

Shawn Drumgold was convicted of the shooting murder of 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore. Moore was caught in the crossfire of gang violence at the intersection of Humboldt Avenue and Homestead Street in Roxbury. Drumgold was freed in 2003 after several prosecution witnesses told The Boston Globe newspaper they'd been bullied by police into providing false testimony. The prosecutor, David E. Meier, said the state would not apologize to Drumgold for his 14 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (TruthInJustice)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Marvin Mitchell

Sept 22, 1988

Marvin Mitchell was convicted of abducting an 11-year-old girl from a Dorchester bus stop and raping her. The victim initially described her assailant as clean-shaven and cross-eyed, but Mitchell was neither. DNA tests exonerated Mitchell in 1997.  (CIPM) (IP)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Christopher Harding

Aug 18, 1989

Christopher Harding was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to murder for shooting and wounding Deron Jones and firing on pursuing police officers. Harding was released after serving 7 years imprisonment, but a federal grand jury investigation cast doubt on the conviction. In Dec. 1997, a judge granted Harding's motion for a new trial citing “serious questions about the veracity” of police testimony at Harding's trial. In Jan 1998, prosecutors declined to retry Harding. Harding sued the police for causing his wrongful conviction by perjured testimony and in Jan. 2000, the city settled the suit for $480,000. A month later, the police department fired Officer Terrence O'Neil for “for lying under oath and other breaches of department rules during the [Harding] case.”  (CIPM)  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Neil Miller

Aug 24, 1989

Neil Miller was convicted of raping an Emerson College student. Miller had been convicted of a non-sexual crime, and the victim picked his photo out of a mug book. Miller claimed that he had never seen the victim before nor been in her apartment. In 1997, he was denied parole because he proclaimed his innocence and refused to enter treatment for sexual deviance. DNA tests exonerated him in 2000. Miller subsequently sued the police and the City of Boston, claiming damages for a conspiracy to convict him with fabricated evidence and perjured testimony. In 2006, Miller was awarded $3.2 million.  (CIPM) (IP) (Frontline) (JD)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Guy Randolph

Dec 1990

Guy Randolph was convicted of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl. The girl did not initially recognize Randolph as her assailant. However, a few minutes later, after talking to her aunt, she accused Randolph. During a grand jury investigation, the girl described her assailant in ways that did not match Randolph, including his clothing and height. There was also no physical evidence connecting Randolph to the assault.

At his lawyer's request, Randolph entered a Alford plea in which he did not have to admit guilt in exchange for a time served sentence of 4 months plus 10 years of probation. Randolph later failed to show up for an alcohol counseling session, a condition of his probation. A judge then incarcerated him for the remainder of the 10 years. Following Randolph's release, he had to register as a sex offender. In 2008, after prosecutors said the case against Randolph was so weak it should not have been pursued, a judge exonerated Randolph of all charges and declared him innocent.  (Boston Globe)  [6/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Anthony Powell


Anthony Powell was convicted of raping a teenage girl. The assailant kidnapped her at knifepoint and after raping her, demanded that she show up the following night at a Chez Vous skating rink with $100. Powell happened to be at the skating rink the next night and was identified by the girl as her assailant. DNA tests exonerated Powell in 2004.  (IP)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Donnell Johnson

Oct 31, 1994 (Roxbury)

Donnell Johnson, then 16, was convicted of murdering Jermaine Goffigan, 9, as Goffigan was counting his trick-or-treat candy Halloween night. Johnson was cleared in 1999 after new witnesses came forward in a federal probe. Gang members apparently shot Goffigan when they were firing bullets at a rival gang member. Two gang members were indicted for the murder in 2001.  (CIPM)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Marlon Passley

Aug 11, 1995

Marlon Passley was convicted of murder and assault. He allegedly was a helmeted motorcycle passenger who fired on a group of six youths, killing Tennyson Drakes, and seriously wounding two others. Passley was identified by four of the victims in court. Passley was cleared in 2000 after the real perpetrator was identified and indicted.  (CIPM) (JD)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Kenneth Conley

May 27, 1997

Kenneth Conley, a Boston police officer, was convicted of perjury for testifying that he did not observe the police beating of a shooting suspect in 1995. The suspect happened to be an undercover officer. The conviction was overturned in 2000 because the prosecution withheld evidence that the witness against Conley expressed doubts about his memories and suggested that he be hypnotized.  (Boston Globe) (Appeals)  [11/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Stephen Cowans

May 30, 1997

Stephen Cowans was convicted of charges related to firing a bullet into Sgt. Detective Gregory Gallagher's buttocks using the officer's own gun. The conviction was based on fingerprint evidence, but it was later determined that the fingerprint that allegedly matched Cowans, came from a hostage of the real shooter. The officer and another witness identified Cowans as the assailant, but the hostage witnesses who spent the most time with the assailant disagreed. The Boston Police Department technician who processed and matched the fingerprint had been suspended for ten days in 1992 after he was caught drunk without his pants along the Charles River. DNA tests exonerated Cowans and he was released in 2004. In 2006, Cowans was awarded $3.2 million.  (IP) (Boston Globe) (Boston Phoenix)  [10/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Billy Leyden

Mar 2001 (East Boston)

Billy Leyden was convicted of the decapitation murder of his brother, Jackie Leyden. Billy went to Jackie's apartment on March 12, 2001, but his brother was not around. A week later, on March 19, he went again, smelled a horrid stench, and found Jackie's decapitated body under a bed. The body had been decomposing for at least a week. Police fixated on alleged inconsistencies in Billy's story and on fights Billy had with his brother. They also found a piece of “fatty tissue” with Jackie's DNA in Billy's car trunk. The DNA could be explained as Jackie often rode in Billy's car, sometimes putting bags and dirty laundry in the trunk. Billy was exonerated three years later, after a serial killer, Eugene McCollom, confessed to the murder and led police to a skull that was found in a park near Ft. Lauderdale, FL. DNA tests confirmed the skull was Jackie's. McCollum had known Jackie from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but his motive for killing him is unclear.  (Sun-Sentinel)  [4/08]