HARTFORD, Conn. – A judge on Friday granted bond for a mentally disabled man serving a life sentence for the 1987 murder of his wife's grandmother, clearing the way for his release following a court order for a new trial.
Attorneys for Richard Lapointe, 69, said they would cover the $250,000 bond, 10 percent of which had to be posted, and after his release, their client would stay under curfew with a couple in East Hartford.
"Judge, the only thing he wants to do is get out and breathe some fresh air," attorney Paul Casteleiro said in court.
The state Supreme Court ruled on March 31 that Lapointe was deprived of a fair trial because prosecutors failed to disclose notes by a police officer that may have supported an alibi defense. His advocates have long questioned the validity of a confession he made to police.
Murder charges have been refiled but the prosecutor, Gail Hardy, said the state needs to review the evidence before deciding whether it can go forward with another trial. Lapointe is due back in court on May 15.
At his trial in 1992, Lapointe was convicted of killing Bernice Martin, who was found stabbed, raped and strangled in her burning Manchester apartment. A judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.
Lapointe's lawyer and supporters said the evidence showed he could not have committed the crimes and his mental disability made him vulnerable to giving a false confession.
His case became a cause celebre, receiving widespread publicity from advocates for the mentally disabled and celebrities including writers Arthur Miller and William Styron.
The Supreme Court's decision upheld an earlier ruling by the state Appellate Court, which in 2012 overturned Lapointe's convictions for capital felony murder, sexual assault and other crimes.
Notes from Manchester police Sgt. Michael Ludlow indicated that the fire started between 7:50 p.m. and 8 p.m. on March 8, 1987, when Lapointe's now-ex-wife, Karen Martin, said he was home.
Lapointe suffers from Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a congenital brain malformation that results in hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.
Prosecutors point to his confession and other evidence as proof of his guilt. His supporters say his confession was coerced during a 9½-hour interrogation.