By Richard Weizel
MILFORD, Conn. (Reuters) - A mentally disabled Connecticut man whose 1992 murder and rape conviction was overturned earlier this year after he spent a quarter century in prison can never be tried again for the crimes, a Connecticut judge ruled on Friday.
Prosecutors had asked a state Supreme Court judge to leave open the possibility of another trial for Richard Lapointe, 69, drawing fire from his defense attorneys who said new DNA evidence proved him innocent.
Lapointe spent 26 years behind bars for the 1988 rape and murder of his ex-wife's grandmother, 88-year-old Bernice Martin. He was released in April after the state Supreme Court found his confession was unreliable and that prosecutors did not provide him evidence that could have supported his alibi.
Judge Joan Alexander on Friday denied the prosecution's request to leave open the possibility of another trial and dismissed the case.
"We are ecstatic to have this nightmare over," said defense attorney Paul Casteleiro.
Lapointe's lawyers had argued that comprehensive DNA tests analyzed by the state since his release from prison in April exonerates him in the killing. Lapointe was accused of stabbing Martin 11 times and setting fire to her apartment.
The court overturned Lapointe's conviction after his lawyers argued that his mental illness, known as Dandy Walker syndrome, made him highly gullible and susceptible to suggestion, which caused him to confess.
Lapointe told police detectives investigating the victim's death: "If the evidence shows that I was there, and that I killed her, then I killed her ... but I don't remember being there."
Lapointe, who will turn 70 later this month, is now residing in an assisted living facility in Connecticut.
(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and G Crosse)