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Lawyer Continues Fight for Man's Innocence

In February, we told you about Maine lawyer Morrison Bonpasse whose book, Perfectly Innocent, had caused three jurors to doubt their 1993 conviction of Alfred W. Trenkler in connection with a 1991 bombing that killed one Boston police officer and maimed another. After reading the book, three of the jurors, including the forewoman, wrote letters to U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel in Boston urging her to grant Trenkler a new trial.

Since February, there have been several developments in the case. For one, two additional jurors sent letters to Judge Zobel urging a new trial. For another, even with the five letters from former jurors, Zobel was not swayed. On March 16, she issued a memorandum opinion and order denying Trenkler's request for a new trial.

Zobel ruled that most of the newly discovered evidence cited by Trenkler in his request was barred by a one year statute of limitations on such evidence. The one piece of evidence that was not time barred did not meet the requirement of alleging a constitutional violation, she said. In July, she issued a certificate of appealability, a formality that allows Trenkler to appeal her ruling on a new trial to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which he plans to do.

Meanwhile, Bonpasse has been pursuing a related matter before the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers. He filed a grievance alleging that the prosecutors in the case committed misconduct when they failed to disclose to the defense that they sought early release from prison of an informant whose testimony was critical to the case against Trenkler.

In June, Bar Counsel Constance Vecchione notified Bonpasse that her office would not pursue an investigation. "The federal Pacer system shows that Mr. Trenkler has been represented in a number of proceedings in federal court over the last seventeen years by very competent counsel who (I am assuming from your correspondence) have not chosen to pursue further the issue you raise of inducements supposedly offered by prosecutors to the witness," Vecchione wrote.

Bonpasse appealed Vecchione's denial to a single member of the Board of Bar Overseers, who affirmed her decision. He is now asking the full board to review the matter.

Our original post about this in February drew the comments of one skeptic. Jack Marshall, a lawyer who runs the site Ethics Scoreboard, called the whole matter "nonsense" and the jurors "dupes." "A man who was not present at the trial, based on interviews of the convicted, gets jurors who WERE at the trial to doubt their opinions? This says more about the quality of juries than anything else," he wrote. Bonpasse posted a reply to Marshall's comment arguing that the case is not nonsense, but a "noble challenge."

For now, it appears the case will continue as Trenkler takes it to the 1st Circuit and Bonpasse continues to pursue his bar grievance. Anyone interested in following the case can do so at Alfred Trenkler Innocent Committee.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 18, 2009 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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