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Man who spent 27 years in prison for a Roxbury murder he didn't commit sues state to try to get some of his life back

James Lucien, convicted in 1995 for first-degree murder based in part on testimony and bogus evidence from a member of a gang of corrupt Boston cops, last week sued the state for the maximum $1-million wrongful imprisonment allowance and to have his criminal file - which also includes armed-robbery and illegal-gun possession convictions stemming from the murder case - expunged from court and probation records.

Lucien, now 50, was a passenger in the rear seat of a car outside a McDonald's in Roxbury on June 25, 1994 when the driver, Ryan Edwards, was shot and died - but not before telling a BPD officer that he had been shot by somebody outside the car, according to Lucien's suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

Lucien was convicted of murder, armed robbery and illegal possession of a firearm in large part based on testimony and evidence from Det. John Brazil, who later got immunity to testify against his fellow corrupt cops, including Kenneth Acerra, Walter Robinson and John Mulligan, who would shake down drug dealers, steal money and drugs from crime scenes and fabricate evidence.

Acerra and Robinson eventually pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and got three years in prison. Mulligan was shot to death in 1993 as he slept in his Explorer while on a detail outside the Walgreens on American Legion Highway in Roslindale. A Suffolk Superior Court jury convicted Sean Ellis - in his third trial - and he himself spent 22 years in prison before he was exonerated.

In his complaint, Lucien's attorney says his client's case followed a similar pattern to other cases involving the corrupt cops: Money that was in the car went missing - and Brazil, who took it, made up a story that Edwards had been robbed in addition to being shot. He then returned some money to the scene - to make the case that Edwards had been robbed, only the serial numbers of bills in photos taken at the initial scene did not match those on bills Brazil claimed were on Edwards.

Brazil also made up evidence to help free the man on the sidewalk who was likely the real killer in an attempt to shake him down for drugs and money, including a story that the man's gun was thrown out by a family member when, in fact, Brazil disposed of it so it could not be linked to the fatal bullet, the complaint continues. To further keep the man, who was an immigrant facing deportation, quiet, Brazil promised him help to stay in the country, the complaint continues, adding that Brazil also got a beeper from somewhere and said they had found it in Edwards' car and that it was further proof of Lucien's guilt.

The complaint continues that Edwards' clothes disappeared from the hospital - and that Brazil was the detective assigned to collecting those clothes, which had more money in them - and possible evidence of where the bullet had come from. Brazil and other investigators never tested the inside of the car for the gunpowder residue, which might have further exonerated Lucien.

Had Plaintiff had the exclupatory evidence ... he would have been able to establish that: (1) the gunshot came from outside of the car; (2) there was no armed robbery; and (3) he did not possess the murder weapon that was the basis for the possession charges against him; and (4) that Edwards possessed more money so as to undermine the Commonwealth's claim that Plaintiff had committed a robbery.

The complaint sums up the effects of a long prison stay on Lucien:

Because of the investigators' misconduct, Plaintiff has missed out on participating in the lives of his family and friends. In particular, his son was three years old when Plaintiff was wrongly arrested. Plaintiff would not be able to engage in a relationship outside of prison with his son until he was a fully grown man.

Plaintiff was also deprived of opportunities to engage in meaningful labor, to develop a career, and to pursue his interests and passions. Plaintiff was deprived of all the basic pleasures of human experience, which all free people enjoy as a matter of right, including the freedom to live one's life as an autonomous human being.

During his decades of wrongful imprisonment, Plaintiff was detained in harsh and dangerous conditions in maximum security prisons. He was physically injured and assaulted numerous times, some of which resulted in painful medical treatment. ...

Among other hardships, he had difficulty getting medical care while he was in prison. Plaintiff had to wait long periods to obtain needed medical attention. Even when he received medical care, it was often substandard.

His unlawful arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment caused him to suffer from mental and physical health problems, which continue to this day.

In addition to the severe trauma of wrongful imprisonment and Plaintiff's loss of liberty, the investigators misconduct continues to cause Plaintiff ongoing heath effects.

Also:

In addition to being wrongfully imprisoned for decades, government officials publicized Plaintiff's arrest, thereby permanent negatively impacting his standing in the community.

In 2021, Lucien filed his third motion for a new trial. This time, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office agreed with him and a judge granted him a new trial on the murder and armed-robbery charges. The DA's office then formally dropped those charges. In 2023, the DA's office went through a similar process to drop the illegal-gun-possession charge.

But while the dismissal of charges means Lucien has been exonerated, the charges remain on file in court and probation records.

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Comments

I wonder what part of the law we need to rewrite to make sure that somebody's record is automatically wiped when they are exonerated. That should be the bare minimum given how much a record impairs one's ability to get a job above entry-level work. Having a false record following you out of prison is not justice, just a different form of punishment.

It's also time to rethink how we do wrongful imprisonment payments. I'm in favor of a set amount per year that can be claimed as damages, even if that would put us over the 1mil limit in this particular case. There's gotta be someone out there, probably an actuary, who has done very thorough research on what the average life is worth in our current system, heartless as that sounds.

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Voting closed 34

So I can sue (and get) $5million for pain and suffering, but there's a maximum of $1million for wrongful imprisonment? That doesn't sit right with me.

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The average annual cost per prisoner in FY 2022 was $127,736. Total expenditures by the DOC in FY 2022 exceeded $760 million

not sure of the total cost for 27 years, but it is likely they spent more than a million during that time.

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Remember that the next time you vote.

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We need feedback loops that cost the state so much money for screwing up that they actually have an incentive to lean on the police and bring about some reform. Destroying the corrupt officers who did this would be even better, but clearly that's beyond us right now.

We desperately need feds and IA to find a way to test officers on whether they would, in a real-world scenario, report their fellow officers' wrongdoing. It seems pretty obvious that the majority of cops will absolutely let their peers get away with crimes. Sadly, I don't think our society is ready to put forward the budget that would be required to quickly backfill all the police officers we would need to fire (and imprison) in order to clean house.

All of this would require such fights with police unions, it's exhausting to just think about. Police are so much closer to the SS than any of us want, and backing that out is going to be very, very difficult.

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At least on the scale that it did 30-40 years ago like what happened in this case.

And if IA wanted to test anyone (they actually do) the Unions have zero say in the matter.

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As long as there's qualified immunity, I don't see this changing.

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Since breaking the law is not protected by it.

Not surprised you didn't know that of course. (New computer so I gotta figure out my lbb block again)

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...you sweet summer child. You actually believe that's true.

Not a new computer but I'd love to figure out the Pete Nice block. Care to provide instructions?

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An unjust 27 years in prison is only worth what will soon be barely enough to retire, and not even having your name removed from court and probation records? Yeah, no, that 1 million maximum needs to be updated, perhaps to something scaling with the amount of unjust prison time. This whole thing is an insult to the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".

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The original trial was a travesty, but you can't fault the court for failing to provide a remedy he didn't ask for. Adam attached the complaint, pages 14 and 15, makes his request clear, 1 million dollars, clearing his record, attorney's fees and "whatever else he may be entitled to".

That last bit might mean the court could grant him more money, but the first part of his claim, the request for 1 million, already invokes the primary law for recovering damages for wrongful imprisonment.

He could go after those corrupt cops, this would almost certainly meet the requirements of a Bivens action, but I doubt they have much in the way of assets at this point.

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He's suing under a state law aimed at helping the wrongfully convicted clear their names, and that law sets a maximum amount of $1 million to go along with having his criminal-system records expunged.

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Today's news The National Lawyers Guild, Boston office, is having to sue BPD and BRIC to get records released of when they welcomed the Proud Boys to Boston for July 4 weekend two years ago, even helping them unload their UHAUL at BB Station. These fools beat up Charles Murrell, smashing his head into a light pole yet the cops still did nothing. They let them march thru Copley then along the edge of the Swan Boats walk to the dismay of many a Bostonian who had invited family to the city for the weekend.

Figures this is connected to Mulligan's death by cop that they blamed on Sean Ellis.

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Acerra and Robinson eventually pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and got three years in prison.

Dirty cops should serve two years for every year they steal from an innocent person.

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