Supporters See Innocent Man Serving Life
By PETER APPLEBOME
Published: July 15, 2007
He was interrogated for nine hours, until 1:30 in the morning. No recording was made. During that time he signed three inconsistent confessions. He later said he signed them so he could go to the bathroom or leave. The first said he was responsible for the death but it was an accident, and his mind went blank. The second said if the evidence showed he did it, he did it, but “I don’t remember being there.” The third had details of the crime, some consistent with known facts, some not. At a 1992 trial, he was found guilty of capital felony murder and eight other charges. That should have been the end of it.
But one of those attending the trial was Robert Perske, a writer with a special interest in cases involving people with mental disabilities. He watched in horror, convinced that Mr. Lapointe was being railroaded on the basis of coerced confessions. He sent an alert to some friends, who attended the trial, too. When it ended, they raised money for appeals, visited Mr. Lapointe in prison, hired lawyers, generated publicity, organized a forum on wrongful convictions.
They say the case is preposterous, that Mr. Lapointe, a victim of numerous mental and physical infirmities, was not capable of such conduct. They say to commit a crime of astounding brutality, Mr. Lapointe, who had no history of violence of any kind, would have decided to sneak out in a 45-minute interval while his wife and son were upstairs. He would have taken a short walk to Mrs. Martin’s apartment, raped her, stabbed her, strangled her with a ligature that required far more dexterity than he had ever shown and set the place on fire.
And then, with no one seeing him come or go, he would have returned home, with no wounds, no blood, no smell of smoke, in time to calmly watch a National Geographic special with his family.
“He didn’t do it, he wouldn’t do it, he couldn’t do it,” said Irv Hargrave, a retired business executive who is one of the supporters.
The jury disagreed. Michael O’Hare, the assistant state attorney supervising the case, said the confessions, a semen sample found at the crime scene consistent with Mr. Lapointe’s blood type and statements he made the night of the murder (which the state contends reflected knowledge of the crime not available at the time) provided ample evidence, and that Mr. Lapointe received excellent counsel. Because of the heat from the fire, no identifiable DNA was recovered.
“I’m sure they’re well-meaning,” he said of Mr. Lapointe’s supporters. “But I don’t believe their beliefs are supported by the evidence, which shows he is guilty and was properly convicted.”
The legal obstacles facing his primary lawyer, Paul Casteleiro, in seeking a new trial are daunting. His supporters could be excused if the whole thing is feeling Sisyphean or worse.
It’s been a long, long road without much to show for it, but some of them met this week to discuss the case and plan what they’ll do if he’s released. Mr. Lapointe still talks about the lobster dinner he ate once at Red Lobster. They’d like to get him a second one.
||Truth in Justice