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Yet another testament to the value of a two-paper city

In Massachusetts, they're getting ready for the inauguration of the first Democratic governor in 16 years. Deval Patrick, former Clinton Administration official and best friend of inmates everywhere, will take the oath in January. In the meantime, he's putting together his transition team -- and just how some members are being portrayed by the city's two papers is rather revealing.

One of the newspapers says that Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Patrick's chief of staff to be, is an "outsider" and cites her lengthy work with the Home For Little Wanderers (a human service agency) and the Urban League. It's a glowing review, citing her years and years of administrative experience in helping the poor and underprivileged.

The other paper, though, finds one particular downtrodden individual that Wallace-Benjamin tried to help. Benjamin LaGuer, who was convicted of brutally raping a neighbor in the 1980's over several hours, was a beneficiary of Patrick's humane efforts. Patrick, while on the staff of the NAACP, worked to get LaGuer's conviction overturned and win him a new trial. Even after leaving that job, Patrick wrote several letters to LaGuer's parole board urging his release, and even contributed several thousand dollars towards a DNA test that finally settled the matter -- LaGuer was proven to have been the rapist in question.

But right alongside Patrick was Wallace-Benjamin, who wrote a glowing letter to the same parole board seeking his release. According to Wallace-Benjamin, this rapist (who called his victim from prison, impersonating a priest, and tried to get her to recount her testimony and identification of him) was "a talented writer, an intelligent advocate, and a man whose experience and life lessons make him a valuable member of the community."

The parole board chose not to heed the opinions of Patrick and Wallace-Benjamin, and Mr. LaGuer remains behind bars to this day.

Would anyone care to speculate which paper strongly endorsed Mr. Patrick, and has been soft-pedaling his various gaffes, flubs, misstatements, and more outrageous policy ideas, and which one endorsed his opponent?

Nah. Too easy.

Comments (7)

The question should be: How... (Below threshold)

The question should be: How many hours after Patrick takes office will LaGuer receive his pardon?

Let's face it, Deval Patric... (Below threshold)

Let's face it, Deval Patrick is the Affirmative Action Governor of Massachusetts -- a state deserving of such an "empty suit" chief executive.

Or put another way, Metco goes to the statehouse.

Hey Jay, Tas at <a href="lo... (Below threshold)

Hey Jay, Tas at Loaded Mouth is closing his blog tomorrow. Thought you would like to know.

I've always been suspicious... (Below threshold)

I've always been suspicious of women with hyphenated names.

What is it with liberals an... (Below threshold)

What is it with liberals and their fascination with dangerous, violent criminals? From the Black Panthers to Mumia al-Jamal to Leonard Peltier to more successful criminals such as Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, it seems that you never seeem to see a spectacularly vicious thug without an entourage of liberal courtiers carrying him around in one of those sedan chairs.

There ought to be a two-sid... (Below threshold)

There ought to be a two-sided debate here on LaGuer's actual guilt. (Which is a separate question from whether he got a fair trial. That question will be taken up by the SJC in January.)

Having researched the case I have come to the conclusion that not only did LaGuer not commit the crime, but the police overlooked a likelier suspect who went on to be charged with another rape and who is still living in the community. Does that make me a bleeding heart liberal? Absolutely not. It makes me someone who takes law enforcement and public safety seriously. As I argued on Hub Politics last August when the Tom Reilly campaign tried to smear Patrick for his comments on the LaGuer case, true conservatives are instinctively suspicious of government power. In this case, the Worcester legal establishment (long dominated by Democrats, by the way) has been going to extraordinary lengths to defend a bad conviction.

I'll be the first to acknowledge that the 2002 DNA test sealed the question of LaGuer's guilt in the minds of many people. I would be among them had I not taken a closer look at the case. The fact is, there is a growing awareness in the DNA expert community that just as in everything human beings do there is potential for error when it comes to forensic DNA. Don't get me wrong, it's an important tool and law enforcement has and will use it to good effect. But there are now dozens of case studies showing that the results are susceptible to mistakes through lab error, contamination and occasionally fraud. As the saying goes, The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance. So whether you are liberal, conservative or somewhere else on the spectrum, don't ever make the mistake of kissing away your Constitutional rights through a blind faith in supposedly scientific proclamations.

In LaGuer's case four highly reputable DNA experts have looked a the paper trail associated with the evidence and they have looked at the DNA reports (which are available in full at www.BenLaGuer.com) and concluded that contamination is the best explanation for how the results turned out. One of them had this to say:

"In summary, there are numerous deficiencies in this case relating to the criminal investigation, evidence collection, evidence handling, evidence storage, chain of custody, serology testing, and DNA testing. The types of errors and mistakes in this case are the result of individuals not adhering to the accepted standards and practices of criminal investigation and forensic laboratory testing."

- Dean A. Wideman, certified forensic consultant.

So whatever your political leanings, always view the government with suspicion. I think if you take a hard and honest look at this case you will agree that LaGuer deserves a new trial. After all, the commonwealth hid a State Police generated report from him at the time of trial that showed there were four fingerprints found on the base of the trimline telephone, the cord of which was used to bind the victim's wrists, and that they belonged to someone other than LaGuer. Under our system of justice (which I wouldn't want to trade for any in the world) that is just plain unacceptable.

If you oppose a new trial that means you are for saying it is okay for the government to hide key and potentially exculpatory evidence. If that is the kind of country you want to live in, then God help you. A new jury at a new trial will have every opportunity to examine the DNA and any other evidence the commonwealth wants to introduce. It will also have the right and indeed duty to reconvict LaGuer if that is their conclusion.

By the way, for those who don't know this already, the lawyer who is working for free to argue LaGuer's case in the upcoming SJC hearing is a guy named James C. Rehnquist. His father was the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, one of the towering figures in conservative jurisprudence of the latter part of the 20th century. So before you join in the political spinning that characterized how all sides used this case in the campaign, ask yourself what it means to be an American, and what the right to a fair trial might mean to you or someone you love some day.

Wow, there are some bitter ... (Below threshold)

Wow, there are some bitter republicans out there. Healey lost, and rightfully so. She tried to win not on her merits, and understandibly so, since they were few and far between, but rather she tried winning by scaring the public away from Deval Patrick with Ben LaGuer. I see a lot of rush to judgement on this man, but I will remind you that there are men convicted of crimes all the time that happen to be innocent. Sometimes the system fails, especially when we try to rush it. Ben LaGuer was not a hardened criminal, he was a boy that just turned twenty and was honorably discharged from the army. He has no criminal record what so ever. He was convicted solely by the victim identifying him from a polariod photo while still in her hospital bed, reeling from the attack. Did I mention she was schizophrenic? Neither did the prosecution. They also did not tell anyone about the fingerprints they found on the trimline phone, the same phone ripped off the wall by the attacker only ten minutes before police arrived. The fingerprints were not Ben LaGuer's. This information would have never seen the light of day were it not for a FOA request which uncovered the state trooper's analysis...18 years after Ben had gone to jail! The police themselves identified a likelier assailant. A man that matched Ben's description so well that his own father once mistook him for Ben at a distance. One that had a knowledge of the building and its tenants. One that had a history of mental illness that included sexually attacking his relatives. One that admitted to this crime, and has been convicted of rape since. Let's talk about how we are ignoring the elephant in the room. If this fingerprint report had been given over to the defense they could have compared these fingerprints, who police admit were not Ben's, and see if they were from this man. The fingerprints are now missing, and the chain of custody on many items in evidence has been broken. This case is a sideshow of incompitence and corruption. I wonder how much his lawsuit is going to cost our state once he is proven innocent? With leadership like we have had I would not be surpirised if this is the real reason he keeps getting denied a new trial, because the evidence for one is overwelming.

I think it awfully arrogant for people to talk about this case without first informing themselves to the facts, but I guess that's what we have to expect from our leaders these days. There are no more heroes left in the world, and that may be why Deval Patrick shines so brightly in people's eyes right now. People want to see dignity and nobility put back into politics. They want to believe in justice too. While you are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday, ask yourself what you would do if Ben LaGuer had been your son, and all these errors in his case were present. You'd demand a new trial, its only fair.






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