Ben LaGuer's Statement to Parole Board

I woke up this morning anew and I will put head-to-pillow tonight with great hope that change is gonna come.

For the record, I am Ben LaGuer. I am the very proud son of a laborer who was a father to three daughters, five sons and a great grandfather.

This may sound awkward, but I need to be in this chair at this hour. To wish I was elsewhere is a betrayal of God's unfolding plan for my life.

I would like to first say a heartfelt word to the memory of a good and brave American woman. As a man, a son, a brother to three sisters, an uncle to six nieces, a nephew to ten aunts and a friend to women of all walks of life, I honor the memory of Lennice May Plante who served with distinction in WWII as a surgical technician with the US Army.

If I could, I would carry all of the pain she and her family have endured since that fateful day. What happened to her 27 years ago has diminished me, in that way the abuse of any vulnerable person harms our collective sense of brotherhood and community. For 27 years I have worked to build an exceptional community and I offer as evidence of that labor the presence of those here today.

At this hearing I will repeat with a clear voice and with convincing evidence that I am innocent of this crime for which I was convicted. Some people say that it's crazy to do the same old thing expecting a different result. I hope that I can convince you that what needs changing is the pattern of parole denials and not my repeated claims of innocence.

Mr. Chairman, I have now been in prison for 27 years because I received a trial by biased jurors. Prior to trial, as the State Police interview with the jury foreman transcript shows, several jurors engaged in conversations seen of whites during the darkest era of Jim Crow. One juror expressed his opinion saying, ?The spic is guilty just sitting there; look at him, why bother having a trial??

Some may find it astonishing that I have served 24 more years in prison than if I had accepted a plea bargain. John Strahinich, a editor currently with the Boston Herald, confirmed this plea bargain in 1987 with both my trial lawyer and trial prosecutor. I say this only because, in past parole hearings, prosecutors left a lingering question about this plea because records in the Worcester District Attorney's office are missing. It is only right that they not be lawyerly and fancy. And I say this with all due respect for the fine work that prosecutors in general perform.

Speaking briefly about the infamous DNA test I provided a blood sample for. My genotype was not matched to the biological evidence left by the presumptive culprit on the woman's body. My genotype was compared to a profile created out of samples taken from me and my apartment. What prosecutors have presented is a travesty of science. It is ludicrous to suggest that I am guilty of the rape and murder of Lennice Plante because my DNA matched a profile created from samples illegally taken from me and my apartment. Judge Borenstein is ready to answer any questions regarding this.

Mr. Chairman, my incarceration has been a thoroughly chronicled imprisonment. No one on this board should doubt what I am likely to do with my life because of an absence of evidence. My case file, which fills nearly thirty boxes, illuminates the story of my life. A man with far more grace and humility than I am mustering here said, risking political peril, that I am not only humane but intelligent. In the end, I want you to vote to grant me freedom because you are independently convinced that I possess these qualities and that I can solve the problems we all face in the journey of our lives.

At my first parole hearing, I sat in this chair for over six hours. I was fortunate to have had in the audience Dr Joan Wallace-Benjamin, who said in a affidavit "I was stunned by the tenor of the parole hearing." (6/15/99) Even the Republican Governor Paul Cellucci expressed his displeasure over what he heard happened. (Boston Globe 12-24-1998) Mr. Chairman, you are now wielding the power that once manifested in barking dogs, water hoses, gas masks and smashing rifle butts. I hope that, in contrast to those times, I will now be treated fairly.

It should be clear to everyone in this room that I will never trade my father's name for any reason, not even freedom. People ask me why I am willing to sacrifice so many years when all I need to do is offer up a confession. When I was a boy, my father told me that every particle of my body was once part of a star! When a father nurtures the spirit of his offspring, he or she grows up to honor that love and I have tried to do this for all of my 46 years.

I believe that few have come before this board with a better employment, residence and educational plan. I also believe that few before me have summoned such a distinguished group of individuals. Among them is a former superior court judge who has offered me employment at his law firm. John Archer, a former Board Chairman of Opera Boston, has opened his heart and home to me. Boston University Creative Writing Program director Leslie Epstein, whose students have won multiple Pulitzers, has offered me a place in the Masters of Fine Arts graduate program. I will continue to rely on the support, love and counsel of my family and legion of friends. Minister Don Muhammad, a beloved figure in this community has been my adviser and friend for over 26 years. I would be a lesser person had Dr. John Silber not seen me as a flower in the mud. As for the many people I have no time to name, thank you for affirming my place in this world. As for me, 27 years of an examined life in prison have taken me to many places in the heart to feel what I could not see. In these many years life has taught me that hatred and anger are too heavy a burden for me to carry. I want to fulfill and complete the book of my life with deeds that are pleasing to the eyes and spirit of this community. I desire only to be a servant of what is noble and excellent. I wish to uplift, as I have been uplifted. Whatever path life takes me on, I accept on faith, is part of a divine plan. I ask for each of you to vote for my freedom to be with this community and to pray that God continue to shower me with the same blessings he has poured upon me for 27 years.

Ben LaGuer
P.O. Box 466
Gardner, MA 01440