Disabled man may be released from Connecticut prison after court ruling

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 09, 2015 8:00 PM

By Richard Weizel

MILFORD, Conn. (Reuters) - A disabled man who has spent a quarter century in prison for rape and murder is expected to be released on Friday after Connecticut's highest court questioned his confession and ruled he had been deprived of a fair trial.

Richard Lapointe, 69, confessed to raping and killing his wife's elderly grandmother in 1989. He was sentenced in 1992 to life in prison without parole.

The state Supreme Court last month ruled that his admission was extracted under duress and that he was deprived of a fair trial because prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that supported his alibi.

The court ruled that Lapointe be released or given a new trial, and prosecutors earlier this week agreed not to oppose bail at a hearing set for Friday morning in Hartford.

Attorneys and supporters say the former dishwasher confessed after nearly 10 hours of police interrogation.

Lapointe suffers from Dandy-Walker syndrome, which affects brain development and causes intellectual and physical impairments.

His supporters and attorneys say he could not have committed the crime due to his disabilities, which also made him gullible to suggestion and pressure. The victim, 88-year-old Bernice Martin, was found raped and stabbed in a burning apartment in Manchester, Connecticut.

“It's truly a miracle,” said George Ducharme, a retired college professor and member of the Friends of Richard Lapointe who regularly visits Lapointe in prison.

“This is a mentally and physically handicapped man who could never have committed this crime," Ducharme said.

Lapointe "was railroaded and confessed just to make the police happy with him,” he said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Ken Wills)