Victims of the State

22 Cases

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*Exclusive of Suffolk County


County:   Berkshire   Bristol   Essex   Franklin   Hampden   Middlesex   Norfolk   Worchester




Date of Alleged Crime


Berkshire County, MA Bernard Baran Arrested 1984
Bernard Baran, a gay 19-year-old, was an aide at Pittsfield's Early Childhood Development Center and was caught in the wave of false abuse allegations that swept the nation in the early 1980s.  In 2006 his conviction was overturned and charges against him were dropped in 2009.  ( (JD08)  [3/05]


Berkshire County, MA Robert Halsey 1993 (Lanesborough)
Robert Halsey, a school bus driver, was convicted of sexual assaulting children, because of the testimony of the children.  After extensive interrogation by counselors, the children said Halsey detoured their school bus on the way to school to a nearby lake and engaged in wild and bizarre activities with them that included things that could not possibly be true or showed an ignorance of human anatomy.  Such detours allegedly occurred numerous times over the course of two years.  No record exists of Halsey ever being late on his bus schedule.  When testifying, the children did not seem frightened or upset, only well rehearsed.  Sometimes they seemed to forget what was apparently rehearsed and ended up speaking about alleged events in a nonsensical context.  (CrimeMagazine)  [1/07]


Berkshire County, MA Michael O'Laughlin Nov 17, 2000 (Lee)

Michael M. O'Laughlin was convicted of the assault and attempted murder of Annmarie Kotowski, a woman who lived in his apartment building.  The victim was severely beaten to the extent that, except for her jaw, all the bones in her face were broken.  In addition one of her ears was almost completely severed.  At trial the state presented “evidence of motive, means, opportunity, and consciousness of guilt” on the part of O'Laughlin.  However, such evidence only indicated that O'Laughlin could have committed the crime.  It contained no necessary inferences that he did commit the crime.

The victim had lived with her husband, David Kotowski, for 26 years, but had separated from him just 2 months before the assault to pursue a relationship with another man, James Finn.  She had mentioned divorce to her husband just one week before the assault.  She had amnesia resulting from the assault and could not identify her assailant.  The brutality of the assault suggested the assailant knew her enough to harbor rage towards her.  O'Laughlin's alleged motive of robbery did not require such brutality and did not make much sense as nothing was stolen from the victim's apartment.

The trial judge refused to allow into evidence a note found in the victim's apartment.  The note called its recipient “a whore,” used four-letter words to describe her having oral and regular sex with “him,” and contained the words, “threat to kill him,” suggesting murderous rage.  The victim's relationships highly suggest that her husband had written the note to her and that the “him” mentioned in the note was her boyfriend, James Finn.  Police had not used comparisons of handwriting to prove who wrote the note, and one reason citied for its inadmissibility was that allowing it into evidence “would have required the jury to speculate as to its meaning and genesis.”

The victim's husband was known to have blisters on his hands when questioned after the assault.  He had two towels reeking of bleach in the trunk of his car.  These suggested that he engaged in a cleanup.  He also had no alibi for the hours surrounding the 2 a.m. assault, claiming to be home asleep at the time.

On appeal, the Massachusetts Appellate Court ruled in 2005 that the state's evidence was insufficient to establish guilt.  It then vacated O'Laughlin's conviction and entered a verdict of acquittal.  The prosecution appealed the decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which in 2006 reversed the appellate court's decision that the state's evidence was insufficient.  The Court did indicate the decision was a close one, but it reinstated O'Laughlin's conviction.  In 2009, the First Circuit Federal Court reversed the decision of the MSJC, after finding the evidence insufficient to convict.  In 2010, O'Laughlin was freed from prison after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the prosecution's appeal.  (  [3/08]


Bristol County, MA Frank Grace Aug 8, 1972
Frank Grace, a Black Panther leader in New Bedford, was convicted of the shooting death of Marvin Morgan, a 19-year-old drug addict.  Grace maintained that police framed him because he was a political radical.  Grace's conviction was overturned after new witnesses came forward and old witnesses recanted.  Prosecutors declined to retry him because they no longer had any witnesses.  (BUSL) (ISI)  [11/05]


Bristol County, MA Christina Martin Jan 21, 1990 (Westport)

Christina Martin was convicted of murdering her boyfriend, Richard Alfredo, 61.  Alfredo died in his home after a long history of heart disease.  Initially, it was assumed the disease was the cause of his death and no autopsy was performed.  Alfredo's assets worth about $25,000 went to his estranged wife and her children while Martin and her children continued to live in the home she had shared with Alfredo.  Four weeks after Alfredo's death, rumors surfaced that Alfredo was poisoned.  Martin's daughter had told high school friends that Alfredo had made sexual advances toward her, and that her mother got revenge by serving him Jell-O laced with LSD.

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Essex County, MA Cornelius Usher 1902
Cornelius Usher was convicted of burglary after he was found pawning tools that were stolen from the Leonard shoe company.  Usher was pardoned in 1904 and awarded $1,000 by the state legislature in 1905.  (BUSL) (CTI)  [11/05]


Franklin County, MA John O'Neil Jan 8, 1897
John “Yank” O'Neil was convicted of the rape and murder of Harriet “Hattie” McCloud.  He was hanged on Jan. 7, 1898.  A few months after O'Neil's hanging, a dying soldier who was fighting the Spaniards in Cuba confessed to the crime to ace newspaper reporter, Eddie Collins.  The soldier originated from the area of the murder and died before his oral confession could be backed up by a written one.  (BUSL)  (Trial of John O'Neil)  [11/05]


Hampden County, MA Daley & Halligan Nov 9, 1805 (Wilbraham)

While traveling from Boston to New York, Dominic Daley, 34, and James Halligan, 27, both Irish immigrants, were arrested on Nov. 12, 1805 for the murder of farmer Marcus Lyon.  Lyon's horse was found wandering three days earlier and his murdered body was found two days earlier in Wilbraham.  Wilbraham was then located in Hampshire County.  The defendants were incarcerated in Northampton while their captor received a $500 reward.

At trial, the main evidence against the defendants was the testimony of 13-year-old Laertes Fuller who said he saw the pair on the road, then saw them again minutes later with the victim's horse.  It is not clear why the defendants would have the victim's horse as the horse was later seen wandering around freely.  Legally, witnesses were required to be 14 years old to testify, but the judge overrode this rule in Fuller's case.  Fuller's testimony suggested the defendants killed Lyon during the interval between his sightings of the defendants.  However, Lyon had been shot and, when questioned, Fuller reported he did not hear a gunshot, even though he could not have been very far from the murder.

There appears to be reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendants because:  (1) Fuller was at best marginally qualified to testify.  (2) The details of his testimony contained nothing that compelled one to believe its accuracy.  (3) The reward offered created an incentive for perjury.  (4) Even if Fuller's testimony was true, it did not definitively establish that the defendants had murdered Lyon.  Besides the lack of credible prosecution evidence, there was a lack of due process because the defendants were not allowed to testify in their own defense and were only assigned a lawyer two days before trial.

The defendants were convicted and sentenced to death.  Both were hanged on June 5, 1806 in Northampton before a crowd of 15,000.  It was alleged and widely accepted in the 20th century that Daley and Halligan were framed and convicted because they were Irish Catholics, but historical records do not support any overt prejudice.  In 1984, Gov. Dukakis issued a proclamation exonerating the two.  (BUSL) (Resources)  [11/09]


Hampden County, MA Santos Rodriquez Jan 25, 1954 (Springfield)
Santos Rodriquez was convicted of the murder of 43-year-old Mildred Hosmer.  Hosmer had been smothered with a pillow in a Springfield rooming house.  Police learned that Hosmer had been drinking in the Franklin Grille earlier in the evening, and they picked up Rodriquez, who was the busboy there, for questioning.  Rodriquez, a Puerto Rican who spoke little English, signed a confession he contended was coerced.  In Jan. 1956, another man, Lucien Peets, confessed to Hosmer's murder.  Rodriquez was pardoned in April 1957.  In 1958 the legislature awarded Rodriquez $12,500.  (BUSL)  [11/05]


Hampden County, MA Angel Hernandez Dec 9, 1987 (Chicopee)
Angel Hernandez is currently known as Eduardo Velasquez.  Hernandez was convicted of raping a female college student in Chicopee.  Hernandez maintained that the police were detaining him at the time of the rape.  Police refused to confirm this alibi.  In 2001, DNA tests exonerated him.  In 2002, the new DA secured from the police a computer printout that showed Hernandez's alibi to be true.  (BUSL) (IP) (IDO)  [10/05]


Middlesex County, MA Stearns Kimball Abbott Jan 17, 1880

Stearns Kimball Abbott was sentenced to death for the murder of Maria L. Crue.  The victim was shot to death in her farm home near Groton, MA.  A sleigh belonging to 16-year-old Jennie Carr was identified as being present at Crue's home on the day of the murder.  Carr said she had stopped to visit Mrs. Crue but had left when a man appeared at the door and said she was away.  Other witnesses recalled seeing a stranger with a scruffy beard and a mustache in the vicinity.  This stranger had stopped at a furniture factory not far from the Crue home, asked for a job, and given his name as Stearns Kimball Abbott.  He was a 40-year-old transient from Cambridgeport who had been in and out of prison for for burglary, horse theft, and forgery.

When Abbott was brought to trial, Carr identified him as the man she saw at the victim's house.  Abbott was convicted after his lawyers failed to locate any witnesses who could have established that he had boarded a Boston-bound train at Littleton more than an hour before the victim was last seen alive.  Abbott's appeal was denied in Feb. 1881, and his hanging was scheduled for the following April.  Soon after the appeal denial, a young factory girl in Lowell claimed that Carr had acknowledged that she had falsely accused Abbott.  A few weeks later, that girl's body was found in the Charles River, turning public opinion, according to the Boston Daily Globe, “strong against the verdict” in Abbott's case.

Shortly before Abbott's scheduled hanging, Massachusetts Governor Long granted a reprieve until June and appointed a council to reinvestigate the case.  After being called to testify, Carr initially denied rumors that she had been intimate with the victim's husband, Joseph Crue, and that she had given birth to a child.  However, after a physician who attended the delivery of her child testified, Carr acknowledged that she and the victim's husband had been romantically involved at the time of the murder, and that she had given birth to his child.  Following this hearing, Governor Long refused to declare Abbott innocent, but commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.  However, in 1911, more than thirty-one years after Abbott's arrest, Massachusetts Governor Foss granted Abbott a complete pardon and ordered his release from custody.  (CWC)  [4/09]


Middlesex County, MA Charles Louis Tucker Mar 31, 1904
Charles Louis Tucker was sentenced to death for the murder of Mabel Page.  Page was stabbed in Weston.  More than 100,000 Massachusetts residents signed petitions requesting clemency when a trial witness confessed to perjury.  Nevertheless, Tucker was executed in the electric chair on June 12, 1906.  (NODP) (BUSL)  [11/05]


Middlesex County, MA Benjamin Collins 1928 (Sommerville)
Benjamin Collins was arrested and imprisoned on Sept. 1, 1928 for a series of handbag snatches in Sommerville.  Collins was employed, had no criminal record, and the investigating officer doubted his guilt.  However, he was convicted on Oct. 23 after being positively identified by five victims.  In the week following the conviction, another handbag snatch occurred and the perpetrator, George Hill was caught.  In his home were found stolen items from the other handbag snatches.  Collins's conviction was nol prossed on Oct. 30, and he was released.  (BUSL) (CTI)  [10/05]


Middlesex County, MA Kenneth Waters May 21, 1980 (Ayer)

Kenneth Waters was convicted of the murder of Katharina Brow.  She was stabbed more than 30 times and her money and jewelry were taken.  Two of Waters' ex-girlfriends testified that he had made a drunken confession to them.  Another witness stated Waters tried to sell her the victim's ring and necklace soon after the crime.  Co-workers of Waters stated that he had a knife similar to the one used in the attack.  Types B and O blood were found at the scene.  Brow had type B and Waters had type O, although 48% of the population have type O.

Although the perpetrator apparently bled at the crime scene, police examined Waters a few hours after the murder and found no injuries on him.  Waters' defense indicated that a hair found on victim was neither the victim's nor Waters'.  An ex-girlfriend witness later recanted her testimony.  DNA tests exonerated Waters in 2001.  A theatrical movie based on the case and entitled Conviction is due to be released in Oct. 2010.  (BUSL) (IP)  [6/05]


Middlesex County, MA Dennis Maher Aug, Nov 1983 (Ayer, Lowell)
Dennis Maher was convicted of two rapes and one attempted rape.  He apparently had worn clothes similar to those worn by the actual rapist and was identified by the three victims.  DNA tests exonerated him in 2003.  (IP) (TruthInJustice)  [12/05]


Middlesex County, MA Fells Acres Day School 1984 (Malden)
School officials Gerald Amirault, his mother Violet, and his sister Cheryl got caught up in snowballing sex abuse allegations and hysteria and were eventually accused of abusing more than 40 children.  Children apparently were led into creating abuse stories after being badgered many times by investigating case workers (and some parents) looking for abuse.  Many child witnesses unsaid on cross-examination what they had said on direct examination.  No corroborating evidence was ever found.  The school's insurance company paid more than $20 million to 16 families.  The three defendants were convicted and their convictions were never permanently overturned.  The longest serving defendant, Gerald Amirault, was paroled in April 2004.  Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which had never taken such a stand, called the case a "travesty of justice."  (American Justice) (Website)  [5/05]


Middlesex County, MA Eric Sarsfield Aug 24, 1986 (Marlborough)
Eric Sarsfield was convicted of rape after being identified by the victim.  Sarsfield was denied parole several times after refusing to admit his guilt.  DNA tests exonerated him in 1999.  In 2005 and 2006, Sarsfield was awarded $2.5 million.  (BUSL) (IP) (JD31 p12)  [11/05]


Middlesex County, MA Ray & Shirley Souza Tried in 1993 (Lowell)
The adult daughter of Ray and Shirley Souza went to counseling and was encouraged to read The Courage to Heal, a book about recovering memories of incest.  The book apparently teaches that if you are unhappy or have problems coping with life, it must be because your parents sexually abused you as a child even if you do not remember any abuse.  To heal yourself, you have to recover the memories of such abuse.  This daughter read the book and recovered alleged memories of abuse that occurred when she was a child.  She then spread the gospel of recovered memories to her siblings, some of whom were using their parents, Ray and Shirley, to baby-sit their children.  Subsequently, the siblings "recovered" memories of abuse and questioned their children repeatedly until the children remembered being abused.  Ray and Shirley were charged and opted for a judicial trial rather than a jury trial.  Judge Elizabeth Dolan, who presided over the Fells Acres abuse case, heard the case.  She convicted the Souzas and sentenced them to 9 to 15 years in prison.  Eventually the Souzas were allowed to serve 9 years under house arrest.  Author Mark Pendergrast profiled them in the 1996 book Victims of Memory.  (JD01)  [11/05]


Norfolk County, MA Sacco & Vanzetti Apr 15, 1920 (South Braintree)
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted of shooting two men to death while robbing a company of its $15,000 payroll.  Both defendants were political anarchists and the case against them garnered international attention.  The case against the two was weak, particularly against Vanzetti who had 44 alibi witnesses.  However, both were convicted and the two were executed in the electric chair on Aug 23, 1927.  On Aug 23, 1977, Gov. Dukakis declared Aug 23, “Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day,” and issued a proclamation exonerating the two.  (BUSL) (Famous Trials)  [11/05]


Norfolk County, MA Frederick Weichel May 19, 1980
Frederick Weichel was convicted of the murder of Robert LaMonica based on the nighttime identification of a witness who saw the killer for one second while 180 feet away.  The witness told the police he had consumed four or five beers in the hours before the killing and described the killer as 5'9", 175 lbs. with dark curly hair, bushy eyebrows, and thick sideburns.  Weichel was 5'7", 155 lbs., and did not have curly hair, bushy eyebrows, or thick sideburns.  Three other witnesses near the scene of the murder were unable to identify Weichel.  In 2004, Weichel's conviction was overturned, because one of the suspects in the original investigation confessed to the crime.  However, in 2006, the Massachusetts Supreme Court reinstated Weichel's conviction.  (JD32 p24) (Boston Globe)  [12/06]


Worchester County, MA John Chesterman Nov 1885
John Chesterman, aka John Christman, was convicted of stealing from the home of his former employer, Charles Vokes, and sentenced to a year in jail.  A few weeks after the conviction, Vokes confessed to falsely accusing Chesterman and to committing perjury at his trial.  Chesterman had merely gone to Vokes's house seeking payment of $42 in back wages.  To avoid paying him, Vokes ran him off and staged a robbery with his personal property strewn about the floor.  Because of Vokes's confession, the prosecutor obtained a pardon for Chesterman and he was released in Feb. 1886.  Vokes was prosecuted for perjury.  (BUSL) (CTI)  [10/05]


Worcester County, MA Benjamin LaGuer July 12, 1983 (Leominster)

Benjamin LaGuer was convicted of raping 59-year-old Lennice Plante.  Plante had bad eyesight and said she could not identify her assailant.  When questioned further she vaguely described him as a very dark skinned black male who was very short and of small build.  She later identified LaGuer from a photo.  LaGuer has a light olive skin complexion, is at least six inches taller than Plante and is of muscular build.  Plante said her assailant spoke clearly without an accent, yet LaGuer had had a severe stutter since childhood, and also has an ethnic accent.  Plante said she was vaginally and anally raped over an 8-hour period, yet tests of vaginal and rectal swabs taken from her, as well as tests on her panties failed to show the presence of semen.

Plante had a nervous breakdown 14-years before the incident and her daughter said she “had not been right” since the breakdown.  The prosecutor thought she was mentally ill.  Given her mental state and the lack of semen evidence, it is not clear that she was ever raped.  Other problems plague the case including fingerprint evidence, blood evidence, a missing knife, a missing Pepsi can, police misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, and even juror misconduct.  Following LaGuer's conviction, some jurors on the all-white jury came forward and said that during deliberations other jurors made prejudicial ethnic statements against LaGuer.  (JD33 p14)  [3/07]