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Wrongful Conviction Case Opens

A lawsuit alleging police misconduct is back in court today. Jurors heard opening statements yesterday in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the City of Boston and three of its former police officers, one of whom is deceased.

Shawn Drumgold is the plaintiff. In 1988, he was convicted of murdering Darlene Tiffany Moore. The 12-year-old was accidentally shot in gang crossfire in Roxbury.

Drumgold was released from prison more than 15 years later, when a judge decided he didn't get a fair trial. Drumgold was not exonerated, and he's now seeking damages from both the police officers and the city. WBUR's Bianca Vazquez Toness reports on the trial's first day.

TEXT OF STORY:

BIANCA VAZQUEZ TONESS: In the courtroom , where recording was prohibited, 42-year-old Shawn Drumgold sat in the front row flanked by his wife and mother. The light-skinned African American man wore a gray suit and shaved head.

The defendants--two white, retired Boston police officers, now gray with age--sat together directly behind their attorneys.

People in the courtroom craned their necks to watch the all-white jury enter.

Attorney Rosemary Scapicchio told the jurors that Drumgold "spent 15 years in jail because the defendants, Tim Callahan and Richard Walsh believed they were above the law."

She accused them of "manipulating witnesses and evidence" in Drumgold's trial almost 20 years ago.

The only witness to take the stand yesterday--Ricky Evans--said he initially told the detectives that everyone in his neighborhood knew it was another man who shot Tiffany Moore, but the police "didn't want to hear it was anyone besides Shawn." The detectives, Evans said, checked him into a hotel for eight months, paid for his meals and brought him cash. He said they also cleared several outstanding warrants.

He said he never saw Drumgold the night of the murder but pieced together things the detectives had told him into his testimony incriminating Drumgold. Yesterday Evans said "most of his testimony back then was a lie."

The defense didn't have much time to cross examine Evans, but before he took the stand, the attorneys representing the retired police officers tried to discredit him. Mary Jo Harris called him a "liar" and said there was no evidence that police cleared his warrants.

She questioned the memory and motives of others set to testify against the retired detectives. Harris told the jury that you can't choose your witnesses, and some of the original ones "were not angels."

She painted Callahan and Walsh as law-abiding, long-standing police who were born and educated here in Boston and served their country in the armed forces.

Another attorney representing the men said they "worked this case within the law to the best of their abilities" and acted "correctly".

The jurors will have to decide who is most believable.

Drumgold's attorney Rosemary Scapicchio spoke outside the court.

ROSEMARY SCAPICCHIO: Oh, it's going to be a test of credibility...absolutely a test of credibility between the witnesses that we call and the testimony of Detective Walsh and Detective Callahan denying these allegations.

TONESS: It will likely be several weeks before the jury measures the witnesses' credibility. Ultimately, they must decide it the former Boston police officers conspired to deprive Shawn Drumgold of a fair trial.

For WBUR, I'm Bianca Vazquez Toness.

This program aired on March 6, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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