Two Police Officers Ordered to Pay $1.5 to Murder Defendant
BOSTON (AP) _ Two police officers and a Massachusetts city were ordered to pay $1.5 million to a man convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment after police withheld evidence that would have cleared him.
Officers Alan Silvia and William Correiro lied to a grand jury and violated Lester Olsen’s constitutional rights, a U.S. District Court jury ruled Thursday. Olsen served 5 1/2 years of a life sentence.
Three witnesses told police they saw a 5-foot-7 black man meet the murder victim and accompany him to the alley where he was killed, said Jack Cunha, one of Olsen’s lawyers. But an unidentified informant told police that Olsen and Harold Sullivan, both of whom are white and about 6 feet tall, had told a woman, Gail Trottier, they had killed a man.
Police interrogated Trottier for six days, moving her and her two children from motel to motel, and she finally signed a statement saying Olsen and Sullivan had confessed to the killing, Cunha said.
″Once they (police) choose somebody and go after them, they’ve committed themselves - they won’t go back,″ Cunha said Saturday.
The officers did not tell a grand jury about the differences between the witnesses’ description of the suspect and Sullivan and Olsen’s appearances, Cunha said. He said they also lied to the grand jury and in court about Trottier’s statement.
Sullivan was retried and acquitted. Olsen asked for a retrial and prosecutors offered to drop the case in exchange for a no contest plea. Olsen accepted to avoid the chance of more prison time, Cunha said.
Sullivan and Olsen both sued Silvia, Correiro and the city of Fall River. The city settled with Sullivan, but would not settle with Olsen because he had pleaded no contest, Cunha said.
Joseph Macy, who represented Correiro, told The Boston Globe he would ask to have the verdict set aside.
Silvia and Correiro are both still on the police force. Questions about the case were referred to Chief Francis McDonald, who was unavailable for comment Saturday.