For 27 years Benjamin LaGuer, an Afro-Puerto Rican man, has been a Massachusetts inmate, wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. At the age of 20, just home from the Army, LaGuer had the misfortune of staying in his father’s apartment in Leominster, MA, next door to a brutal attack on an elderly woman. In a rush to judgment police arrested LaGuer, overlooking a likelier suspect, a man with a history of sexual misconduct and who was charged with a similar rape years later. LaGuer’s trial was rife with irregularities, including a report from a juror that members of the all-white, all-male panel made racial slurs that attributed LaGuer’s alleged guilt to his ethnicity.
Between 1999 and 2002 LaGuer’s supporters, including Boston University President Emeritus John Silber and the future governor, Deval Patrick, raised $15,000 to pay for DNA testing that LaGuer believed could clear his name. The test backfired when a trace amount of his DNA appeared in the results. Luckily for LaGuer, in the process of fighting for the DNA test one of his lawyers, using the Freedom of Information Act, uncovered his original Leominster Police Department file. Documents in the file showed that police had illegally seized soiled underwear from LaGuer’s apartment that was later commingled with crime scene evidence. Several DNA experts have reviewed documents associated with the case, together with the procedures used in LaGuer’s DNA test. They have each concluded that the DNA test was botched and that contamination of the crime scene evidence erroneously linked LaGuer to the crime.
Now, at the age of 47, LaGuer is still fighting for his freedom. A model prisoner, LaGuer was offered a plea bargain in 1984 that he refused. LaGuer has three times been offered release by the Parole Board with the condition that he admits to a crime he did not commit. LaGuer continues to refuse parole under any such conditions.
New revelations about this gross miscarriage of justice have recently emerged, adding to a long list of shocking indications that LaGuer’s trial was tragically flawed and that his claims to actual innocence have merit. Raised in a religious family, LaGuer has often said, “Over the body of my father, I cannot lie. I did not do this crime.” In 2007, after hearing that once more his motion for a new trial had been denied, LaGuer said, “I’m going to be optimistic till the day that I die, that I will one day get a fair trial.”