June 19, 2024

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Locked Up & Innocent – Wrongful Convictions

  • In 20 yrs., 22 Innocent MA men, mostly Black, served time after being convicted wrongfully.
  • Since 1997, 9 Inncoent Black Men have been freed after serving from 4-30 yrs.
  • Suffolk County, MA is 2nd in the US for wrongful convictions

LeasterBobby Joe Leaster – Convicted: 1971

Leaster was convicted of the murder of Roxbury merchant Levi Whiteside and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1977, two attorneys working pro bono uncovered a new witness who had seen two men, neither of whom was Leaster, fleeing the scene of the crime. It was shown that the conviction was based on erroneous eyewitness identification. The murder weapon was also shown to have been used in a crime two weeks after Leaster’s arrest. After 15 years in prison, the charges were dismissed. Released: 1986


Stephan CowansStephan Cowans – 2004

Served 6 1/2 years for 1997 shooting of Boston Police officer with cop’s own gun. Cleared due to error by BPD fingerprint technician and DNA
Case unsolved


Donnell Johnson – Convicted: 1996

Johnson spent more than five years in prison for the murder of 9-year-old Jermaine Goffigan before an unrelated federal drug investigation unexpectedly uncovered testimony that led to Johnson’s full exoneration and release. Johnson’s conviction had been based on mistaken eye-witness testimony. Released: 1999

Dirty Cop Keeler Involved


DrumgoldShawn Drumgold – Convicted: 1989

Drumgold was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1988 shooting death of 12-year-old Tiffany Moore and sentenced to life without a parole. Following a Boston Globe investigation which raised doubts about Drumgold’s guilt and several prosecution witnesses revealed that their testimony had been coerced by authorities, prosecutors requested that the conviction be overturned. The investigation of Tiffany’s murder has been re-opened. Released: 2003

Neil J. Miller – 2000

Served 10 1/2 years for 1989 rape of Emerson College student
Cleared through DNA
Case unsolved

Laurence Adams – Convicted: 1974

Adams was sentenced to the electric chair for the 1972 beating death of transit worker James Corry. That sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when the Supreme Judicial Court invalidated the capital statute. The conviction was called into question when it was discovered that Boston police had withheld evidence and witnesses identifying other individuals and a trial witness recanted her testimony. Prosecutors dropped the murder charges thirty years after he was sentenced to die. Released: 2004

Lawyer JohnsanLawyer Johnson – Convicted: 1971

Johnson was convicted of the murder of James Christian and sentenced to death. His conviction was overturned in 1974 and a second jury convicted him of second-degree murder with a sentence of life imprisonment, which was confirmed on appeal. Both the murder victim and all the members of both juries were white. In 1982, a reluctant witness identified the true killer: the prosecution’s key witness against Johnson. Released: 1982


Anthony Powell – 2004

Served nearly 13 years for 1991 kidnapping and rape.
Cleared through DNA
Case unsolved

In March 2004, Anthony Powell’s kidnaping and rape convictions were vacated after DNA testing proved that he was not responsible for the 1992 rape of a teenage girl. Powell had served 12 years of his 12-20 year sentence.

2002 – Ulysses Rodriguez Charles

Served 19 1/2 years for rapes of three Brighton women in 1980
Cleared through DNA
Case unsolved

In 2003, Ulysses Rodriguez Charles was released from prison after serving 19 years for aggravated rape, robbery, unlawful confinement, and entering armed with intent to commit a felony. His conviction was vacated after DNA testing of semen found on the victim’s bed sheets excluded him. Charles asserts that he had been targeted by a police officer with a vendetta who hid evidence in pursuit of his wrongful conviction.

Eduardo Velasquez – 1987

Charge: Rape, Assault with Intent
Conviction: Agg. Rape (2 cts.), Assault & Batt. w/ Dang. Weapon (2 cts.), Indecent Assault & Batt. on Adult (2 cts.), Assault & Batt. (2 cts.)
Sentence: 12 – 18 years
Year of Conviction: 1988
Year of Exoneration: 2001
Sentence Served: 13 years
Real perpetrator found? Not yet
Compensation? Yes

Marlon Passley – Convicted: 1996

Passley was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Tennyson Drakes and wounding two of Drakes’ friends, both of whom identified Passley as the shooter. A total of four eye witnesses testified at trial that Passley was the gunman, while nine others testified that he was elsewhere at the time. The conviction, upheld on appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court, resulted in a sentence of life without possibility of parole, The District Attorney asked that Passley’s conviction be vacated after new evidence came to light. The conviction was overturned in 2000. Released: 1999

Dirty Cop Keeler Involved

Marvin MitchellMarvin Mitchell – 1997

Served seven years for 1988 rape of 11-year-old girl.
Cleared through DNA
Case unsolved



Louis Santos – Convicted: 1985

Social worker Colleen Maxwell was shot and killed during a robbery in 1983. Santos was convicted in 1985 on very weak identification based almost entirely on race. He had served three years of a life prison term when the Supreme Judicial Court in 1988 threw out his conviction. A jury acquitted Santos

Angel Toro – Convicted: 1981

Suffolk County (Boston), MA prosecutors have announced they will seek to vacate Angel Toro’s conviction for the 1981 murder of a motel desk clerk because a police report that could have cleared him was withheld from the defense, and two key witnesses have admitted they lied under police pressure.

Ella Mae EllisonElla Mae Ellison – Convicted: 1974

In 1973, Boston Police Detective John Schroeder was murdered in the commission of a robbery. The three youths who committed the crime were apprehended within a day. In the course of plea-bargaining, two of the defendants agreed to testify against an accomplice named “Sue.” Ella Mae Ellison was eventually arrested as being “Sue.” While she knew the defendants, the only evidence against her was their testimony. As part of their agreement with prosecutors, the two plead guilty to second-degree murder. Ellison was convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery and sentenced to two life terms. In 1976, the two defendants who had testified against Ellison admitted that there had been no fourth participant in the crime; they had invented “Sue.” The Supreme Judicial Court subsequently reversed Ellison’s conviction and all charges were dropped. Released: 1978

Santos Rodriguez – Convicted: 1954

Recently arrived from Puerto Rico, Rodriguez was convicted of second-degree murder, based on a coerced confession which exploited his lack of understanding of English. After serving over three years of his life sentence, another man confessed to the murder and Rodriguez was given a full pardon. The legislature subsequently awarded him a $12,500 indemnity. Released: 1957


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