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New Trial Ordered in Richard Lapointe's 1987 Murder Case

The state Appellate Court ordered a new trial Monday for Richard Lapointe, a brain-damaged man convicted of the 1987 rape, stabbing and strangulation of Bernice Martin that took place in Manchester.

A three-judge Connecticut Appellate Court panel ordered a new trial Monday for Richard Lapointe, a brain-damaged man who was convicted in 1992 of the rape, stabbing and strangulation of Bernice Martin in her burning Manchester apartment in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison. 

In a 3-0 ruling on Monday, the panel held that Lapointe's defense failed to prove his innocence during the initial trial, but ordered a new trial because prosecutors suppressed critical evidence in the case that may have supported Laponte's alibi.

"We conclude that the court properly determined that the petitioner failed to prove his actual innocence claim, but we agree with the petitioner that the state's suppression of certain material evidence deprived him of a fair trial and that he was prejudiced by his prior habeas counsel's failure to pursue that issue at the first habeas proceeding," the decision said. "Accordingly, we reverse in part the judgement of the habeas court and issue a new trial." 

The panel's full ruling can be viewed here

According to the Associated Press, lawyers for Lapointe argued before the appellate court that his previous attorneys were ineffective and that new DNA evidence could be used to prove his innocence. Bernice Martin was Lapointe's former wife's grandmother who lived a short walk away from the Lapointe's in Manchester in 1987. 

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Police obtained three signed confessions from Lapointe admitting to the crime, although various groups have rallied around Lapointe in recent years, noting how easy it is to coerce a confession out of a mentally-handicapped individual after hours of intense interrogation. Lapointed suffered from Dandy-Walker Syndrome as a child, according to the Associated Press, a condition where cysts form on the brain due to the build up of fluid on the skull, which left him with recurring headaches, dizziness and a short attention span. 

Manchester Review Host Jack Peak blogged about the case on Patch earlier this year. Peak said that during his research into Lapointe's conviction, he interviewed Manchester Police Captain Joe Brooks, who was chief of the detective bureau at the time. Peak wrote that Brooks was so convinced of Lapointe’s innocence that he actually released him to go home after his confessions.

Supporters of Richard Lapointe hailed the news on the Friends of Richard Lapointe website Monday. 

Lynn 860-819-1001 October 01, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I am really happy to hear this. He used to work inn a restaurant that I went to every day, and I never thought he was guilty. Hopefully they will prove with DNA that he is innocent.
Anne Feeney October 01, 2012 at 10:26 PM
I trusted Joe Brooks so if he thought he was innocent so do I. RIP Joe Brooks :(
Jake Roger Baineau October 01, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I am still trying to understand how hes on trial serving a sentence when he was released from law enforcement that let him go beleieveing he was innocent? How did he end up being convicted guilty what happen in court??
ed crowley October 02, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Why was it a Connecticut court? Did the proof reader miss this?
ed crowley October 02, 2012 at 12:39 AM
My mistake I thought I was looking at Manchester New Jersey
David Moran (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Jake, I think that's part of the reason the appellate court ordered the re-trial, because his new lawyers successfully argued that his previous lawyers thoroughly botched the case.
CHARLES SHEEN October 02, 2012 at 10:40 AM
The evidence proved this man guilty. A second trial will confirm that finding. He is a rapist and murderer.
tina bourke October 02, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Great story David!!! I read about this before and many people didn't think he did it? I always wonder if one is too impaired to understand their rights during the time of a confession, is there anything in place to accommodate the impaired in order to help them understand their rights? Especially if the police chief was so convinced, and I am guessing he supervised the police who obtained the confessions would want to ensure he had every accommodation available to him if they exist to begin with???
David Moran (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Janet, I had to take this comment down. Although we welcome discussions here on Patch, this is not the forum to accuse someone of a crime, especially not one as heinous as this. Please review our Terms of Use policy if you have more questions about acceptable postings in this forum: http://manchester.patch.com/terms

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