Retired Judge Borenstein Joins Ben LaGuer Defense Team

[Note: Friends of Justice is a personal blog. I speak only for myself.]

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have long been interested in the Ben LaGuer case. LaGuer struggled for years for DNA testing. But when it was done by the Massachusetts state crime lab, it incriminated rather than exonerated him. Almost all of his support, which once included our current governor Deval Patrick, instantly evaporated. LaGuer, however, continued to insist upon his innocence vehemently and said that mistakes must have been made in the testing. Few paid attention. In the last gubernatorial campain, Patrick’s opponent, Kerry Healey, made Patrick’s one-time support of LaGuer her major issue and ran hysterical TV ads that, fortunately, did not work.

In the intervening years, however, it has come to light and been well documented that the state crime lab was being run by incompetent clowns. The main effect of the incompetence was that many guilty people were allowed to remain at large because their DNA was improperly handled. LaGuer’s DNA was also improperly handled. Protocol dictates that the two samples be tested at different times and at different places. Testing both at the same time on the same bench runs a great risk of contamination of one sample with the other. This very likely happened in the LaGuer case.

I’ve long been on LaGuer’s mailing list. A few days ago I got a letter telling me that former Judge Borenstein was joining his defense team. You may be interested in Harvey Silverglate’s  tribute to Borenstein on his retirement from the bench. Borenstein proved himself a true friend of justice with his excellent decision in the Amirault case.

LaGuer’s included a copy of a letter that Borenstein had written him. I would like to quote one passage:

Based on all of this information, I believe there are grounds worth pursuing for attacking the validity of the DNA evidence and, hopefully, turning it in your favor. I am now familiar with the sequence of events that led to the DNA mishap. I am confident that we can argue that the DNA analysis provides evidence that actually contradicts the victim’s account, and therefore, additional exculpatory evidence for a new trial. This is an issue that may be developed in the courts, via a motion for a new trial, and in the arena of public through the media. it is my judgment, based on everything I have read, that there is a very good argument to be made on your behalf that no future jury be allowed to consider this evidence, which prosecutors have argued is reliable. It is my opeinion that the DNA evidence fails to meet even basic Daubert-Lanigan admissibility criteria.

I wish Borenstein success and hope that LaGuer gets another day in court.

-Bob Chatelle