Tempest conviction reversal, release was city’s top story of the year
By RUSS OLIVO firstname.lastname@example.org
December 31, 2015
Raymond Tempest (R) confers with one of his attorneys at hearing on July 13, 2015.
WOONSOCKET – Though a Supreme Court review is pending, the erasure of Raymond D. “Beaver” Tempest’s conviction in the 1982 homicide of a young Bellingham woman is an easy pick for the city’s top story of the year.
As of this writing, Tempest is free on bail, in home confinement. Tempest had spent more than 23 years in prison before Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini granted his release from the Adult Correctional Institutions in mid-August.
As 2016 dawns, however, the big question facing Tempest is whether his freedom will last. In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the state’s appeal of Procaccini’s ruling.
In 1992, Tempest was convicted of the murder of Doreen C. Picard, 22, a crime that happened a decade earlier and became one of the most high-profile cases in the city’s modern history. Tempest always maintained his innocence, but the state argued that he beat Picard with a length of pipe and strangled her to death in frenzied attempt to eliminate a witness to another crime, namely, the beating of her landlady.
In an effort that was years in the making, Tempest assembled a team of lawyers from the Boston-based Innocence Project to advance his claims of wrongful prosecution. The IP lawyers initially petitioned for post-conviction relief in 2004 on the basis of newly discovered DNA evidence, an issue which ultimately turned out to be moot, but later they raised a range of other claims that Procaccini found compelling.
On July 13, after a 23-day hearing, the judge ruled Tempest did not receive a fair trial in 1992 and therefore, his conviction must be vacated. In a 78-page ruling, Procaccini concluded that Tempest’s civil rights had been violated because a prosecutor who argued the state’s case at his 1992 trial withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense and members of the Woonsocket Police Department elicited false testimony from witnesses by employing overly suggestive interrogation techniques.
In copious briefing memoranda submitted to the high court, however, the state has signaled that it intends to attack Procaccini’s ruling on two main fronts. One is that the judge unlawfully permitted Tempest to raise some of his post-conviction claims too late, making it nearly impossible for the state to defend them – mainly because nine of the original trial witnesses are deceased.
Among them are three who claimed Tempest confessed to them that he was guilty of Picard’s murder, but that he would get away with it because of his family ties to law enforcement.
Tempest is the brother of former Woonsocket police detective Gordon Tempest, who was fired following his conviction on perjury charges related to sworn statements he made about his brother’s involvement in the homicide. He is also the son of the late Raymond Tempest Sr., who was the former second-in-command of the Woonsocket police and the sitting high sheriff for Providence County when the murder took place.
State prosecutors also contend that the post-conviction relief hearing, in effect, unlawfully morphed into a sort of retrial because Tempest was allowed to raise claims about witness credibility that were already settled during the 1992 trial.
Tempest’s lawyers are as anxious to defend their client’s innocence before the Supreme Court as the state is to attack Procaccini’s ruling.
“Tempest put his faith in the justice system and hopes for a court hearing that would vacate his conviction and vindicate his innocence,” they said in court papers filed earlier this year.
Even if the high court sustains Procaccini’s ruling, Tempest may not be in the clear. The judge stopped short of declaring that Tempest is actually innocent of the murder, although he enjoys the legal presumption of innocence, like any other defendant who is merely accused of a crime. That means he is still under indictment, and if the high court upholds the ruling, it would be up to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to decide whether to put Tempest on trial a second time for Picard’s murder.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo
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