Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meet the Exonerated: Massachusett's Death Row

Lawyer Johnson was convicted of the shooting murder of James Christian, 30, and sentenced to death by an all white jury.

Another suspect in the murder, Kenneth Myers, claimed to have witnessed the shooting, and identified the photograph of the perpetrator. When the police told Myers that person he identified was in prison at the time of the shooting, Myers changed his story and told police that Johnson was the murderer. Myers told police that he himself had picked up the victim's gun after the victim was shot, and he took police to the place where he had hidden the gun. Myers claimed that he was with his girlfriend when he witnessed the murder, but he refused to divulge her name.

On appeal, the court granted Johnson a new trial, ruling that Myers should have been forced to divulge the name of other witnesses who were at the scene of the crime. At the new trial, Myers' girlfriend did not corroborate his account and a new witness testified that he saw Myers flee from the scene, but never saw Johnson. The jury however convicted Johnson again—this time of second-degree murder. This conviction was upheld on appeal.

Several years later, a 19-year-old woman named Dawnielle Montiero came forward and reported that she had witnessed the murder and that Myers was the killer. She said Johnson was not there that day. This witness had informed the police at the time of the murder about what she saw, but the police said that because she was only nine years old, her information was not important. Based on this new evidence, Johnson was granted yet another new trial. This time around, the prosecution dropped all charges and Johnson was released in 1982.

In 1983, both houses of the Massachusetts legislature approved a bill providing $75,000 compensation to Johnson, but no final action was ever taken on this measure.


Laurence Adams was 21-years old when he was convicted of robbing and beating to death MBTA transit worker James C. Corry during a robbery of cash boxes in the Essex Street subway station.

Adams was sentenced to the electric chair in 1974, but the state's capital punishment law was abolished soon after.

One witness against Adams recanted before her death. Adams' defense also discovered that a key witness was incarcerated at the time he claimed he heard Adams confess in a Dorchester home to the murder.

In 1980, Adam's lawyers uncovered concealed statements made to the police of a witness who identified two men other than Adams as the murderers. Laurence Adams, 51, was released on his own recognizance in 2004, after serving 31-years in prison for a crime he did not commit, following a judge's decision to overturn his conviction. He said he harbors no grudge against prosecutors and police who put him in prison.

"You can't be bitter because you can't stop the clock. I did what I had to do in the circumstances in which I was placed. I did everything positive, and I hoped for this day." -- Laurence Adams

Peter Limone (left), a member of the Deegan Four, was convicted of the murder of Edward Deegan, and sentenced to the electric chair in 1968.

Deegan was a small time thief. At the time of Deegan's killing, Tameleo and Limone were reputed leaders of the New England mob, while Greco and Salvati had minor criminal records.

At trial, the main witness against the four was Joseph Barboza, a hit man, who later admitted that he had fabricated much of his testimony.

In 2001 released FBI documents showed that informants had told the FBI before the murder that Barboza and another man would soon kill Deegan, and the FBI was also told after the murder that the same two men committed it.

Limone's conviction was vacated in January 2001 and at the age of 66, he was released after over 32 years in prison, including 4 years on death row, until Massachusetts eliminated the death penalty in 1972.

In December 2008, Limone became a suspect once more when police charged him with running a gambling ring.
Peter J. Limone, one of four men awarded $101.7 million last year by a federal judge who said the FBI framed them for a notorious 1965 gangland murder, was arrested yesterday on charges that he ran a tightly controlled illegal gambling operation that brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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