Friday, 11 July 2008

Wrongly convicted man seeks compensation

Guy Randolph was exonerated in May. With him were his godmother, Grace Roberts (left), and his mother, Ruth Johns. (GEORGE RIZER/GLOBE STAFF/file)

By Maria Cramer Globe Staff

A Hyde Park man who was wrongly convicted of molesting a 6-year-old girl has filed a lawsuit against the state, seeking compensation for the 10 years he spent behind bars.

Guy Randolph, 50, who was convicted of indecent assault and battery on the girl in 1991, spent seven years as a registered sex offender after his release from prison in 2001. This status, his lawyer said, branded him an outcast and may have prevented him and his mother from being approved for public housing.

"I feel as though Guy deserves" compensation, said his 74-year-old mother, Ruth Johns, who lives with her son and takes care of him. "It's owed to him. There are a lot of things he missed out on."

In May, a Suffolk Superior Court judge exonerated him after the district attorney's office acknowledged that he had been wrongly convicted. His name was taken off the state Sex Offender Registry and the picture of him that had hung for years in a Boston police station was removed.

Randolph, who cannot work because he has schizophrenia and is prone to seizures, wants financial compensation under a state law passed in 2004 that provides a maximum of $500,000 for erroneous convictions.

Randolph was cleared after prosecutors agreed that the case against him was weak from the beginning. There was no physical evidence tying him to the crime, and the victim initially had said he was not her attacker. During the grand jury investigation, she described her attacker in ways that did not match Randolph.

Randolph was indicted and pleaded guilty under the Alford plea, which allows a defendant to assert innocence while acknowledging that the state has enough evidence for a conviction.

Randolph's lawyer, Sejal Patel, said that he has a good chance of being compensated because prosecutors in Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley's office agree that he should never have been charged in the first place.

"There is no district attorney worth their salt . . . who would have let this case get indicted," Patel said.

Conley's spokesman, Jake Wark, declined to say whether prosecutors would back Randolph in his complaint. "We will confine our comments to the legal proceedings," Wark said.

Since the law was passed, 25 people have filed for compensation with the state attorney general's office. Between $5.2 million and $5.7 million has been distributed to 12 former prisoners. Eleven cases are pending. One case was dismissed by a Plymouth Superior Court judge, and another resulted in a mistrial, with a retrial scheduled for 2009.

John Swomley, a Boston defense lawyer, said the attorney general will resist paying prisoners who were wrongly convicted, unless there is DNA evidence proving their innocence.

"They're going to try and fight and argue that while he's technically not guilty, he's not necessarily innocent," Swomley said. "Honestly, I don't think they really care whether it's justly awarded or not. It's a function of economics. They don't want to have to pay out that kind of money."

Attorney General Martha Coakley said the decisions to settle are driven by evidence that the person asserting wrongful conviction is innocent. She said several cases have been settled in which there was no DNA evidence that cleared the complainant.

"The DNA makes it quicker and easier, but it's not like if there is no DNA we're not going to do this," she said. "There has to be a standard by which there is a determination made as to who is entitled to [compensation]. The burden is for the plaintiff seeking the compensation to prove they are actually innocent."

Patel said she hopes any compensation will help Randolph obtain counseling and medical attention.

After Randolph was released, he became withdrawn, depressed by how he was treated in his neighborhood, where some would call him "molester," Johns said.

Since his exoneration, Randolph has become more confident, Johns said. He has made friends and rides his bicycle through Hyde Park, where people now congratulate him on being cleared.

"He feels accepted," Johns said. "He always knew that I love him. He knows I always will, but now he feels the world loves him and accepts him."

Maria Cramer can be reached at

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