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Richard Lapointe Trial: 1992

A Disputed Confession, Rights Of Mentally Handicapped Raised In Appeal

Defendant: Richard Lapointe
Crimes Charged: Murder, arson, assault, sexual assault, kidnapping
Chief Defense Lawyers: Patrick Culligan, Christopher Cosgrove
Chief Prosecutors: Rosita Creamer, Dennis O'Connor
Judge: David M. Barry
Place: Hartford, Connecticut
Date of Trial: May 6—
July 6, 1992
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Life imprisonment plus 60 years

SIGNIFICANCE: While the trial itself provoked little attention, Lapointe's conviction became the center of a growing international controversy over the rights of mentally impaired defendants.

On March 11, 1987, 88-year-old Bernice Martin was raped, bound, and brutally murdered in a senior citizens' housing complex in Manchester, Connecticut. Martin's killer set her apartment on fire, presumably to destroy evidence. Police were frustrated by a lack of leads in the case for two years. They eventually focused their investigation on Richard Lapointe, the husband of Martin's granddaughter. Lapointe, a mentally impaired dishwasher, lived nearby and had reported the fire.

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