Mentally disabled man convicted of murder freed on bail after Connecticut court ruling

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Richard Lapointe, center, raises his arms with Kate Germond, left, Centurion Ministries Co-Director, and Paul Casteleiro, right, Centurion Ministries Legal Director, after he was granted bail and released at the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford Conn., on Friday April 10, 2015. The mentally disabled convict was released following a court order for a redo of a murder trial that condemned him on the basis of a disputed confession. Lapointe was convicted in 1992 of killing Bernice Martin, who was found stabbed, raped and strangled in her burning Manchester apartment. A judge had sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release. (AP Photo/Journal Inquirer, Jared Ramsdell) MANDATORY CREDIT


Richard Lapointe, second from left, raises his arms with Kate Germond, left, Centurion Ministries Co-Director, Paul Casteleiro Centurion Ministries Legal Director, and Jim Cousins, Centurion Ministries Legal Associate, after he was granted bail and released at the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford Conn., on Friday April 10, 2015. The mentally disabled convict was released following a court order for a redo of a murder trial that condemned him on the basis of a disputed confession. Lapointe was convicted in 1992 of killing Bernice Martin, who was found stabbed, raped and strangled in her burning Manchester apartment. A judge had sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release. (AP Photo/Journal Inquirer, Jared Ramsdell) MANDATORY CREDIT


Richard Lapointe, center, is surrounded by the media as he walks away from the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford Conn., with Centurion Ministries Legal Director Paul Casteleiro, right, on Friday April 10, 2015. The mentally disabled convict was released following a court order for a redo of a murder trial that condemned him on the basis of a disputed confession. Lapointe was convicted in 1992 of killing Bernice Martin, who was found stabbed, raped and strangled in her burning Manchester apartment. A judge had sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release. (AP Photo/Journal Inquirer, Jared Ramsdell) MANDATORY CREDIT


Richard Lapointe, center, who was freed on bond after 25 years in prison, speaks to members of the media between attorney Paul Casterleiro, left, and Kate Germond, right, co-director of Centurion Ministries, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Hartford, Conn. The mentally disabled convict was released following a court order for a redo of a murder trial that condemned him on the basis of a disputed confession. Lapointe was convicted in 1992 of killing Bernice Martin, who was found stabbed, raped and strangled in her burning Manchester apartment. A judge had sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)


Attorney Paul Casterleiro, left, shows the features of an iPhone to Richard Lapointe, who was freed on bond after 25 years in prison, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Hartford, Conn. The mentally disabled convict was released following a court order for a redo of a murder trial that condemned him on the basis of a disputed confession. Lapointe was convicted in 1992 of killing Bernice Martin, who was found stabbed, raped and strangled in her burning Manchester apartment. A judge had sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)


This undated inmate photo released Monday, April 6, 2015, by the Connecticut Department of Correction shows Richard Lapointe, convicted in 1992 for the 1987 killing of his wife's 88-year-old grandmother, Bernice Martin in Manchester, Conn. The Connecticut Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, ordered a new trial for Lapointe, ruling he was deprived of a fair trial because prosecutors failed to disclose notes by a police officer that may have supported an alibi defense. A bail hearing for Lapointe is scheduled for Friday morning, April 10, 2015 in Hartford Superior Court. (AP Photo/Connecticut Department of Correction)


HARTFORD, Connecticut — Richard Lapointe changed from an orange prison jumpsuit into a black T-shirt that read "I didn't do it," then walked out of Hartford Superior Court on Friday and threw his hands in the air in triumph.

After almost 26 years in prison and 10 days after the state Supreme Court threw out his convictions for the rape and murder of his wife's grandmother, the 69-year-old mentally disabled Connecticut man was freed on a $250,000 bond.

"Of course I didn't do it," Lapointe said during a news conference held later at a local hotel. "That wasn't me. I wouldn't do nothing like that to nobody. I wouldn't even kill my worst enemy."

At his trial in 1992, Lapointe was convicted of killing Bernice Martin, who was found stabbed, raped and strangled in her burning Manchester apartment in 1987. A judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Lapointe confessed to the crime after a 9 1/2 hour interrogation and prosecutors point to that and other evidence as proof of his guilt.

But the state Supreme Court ruled on March 31 that Lapointe, a former dishwasher, was deprived of a fair trial because prosecutors failed to disclose notes by a police officer that suggest the crime occurred at a time when Lapointe had an alibi.

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. The state did not refile the capital felony count.

Lapointe is due back in court May 15. His attorney, Paul Casteleiro, said they are hopeful he will not be tried again, pointing out that he already has served the mandatory minimum sentence for the remaining counts.

The notes from Manchester police Sgt. Michael Ludlow indicated that the fire in Martin's home 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 with her.

Lapointe's lawyer and supporters said the evidence also showed Martin was tortured and killed over a long period of time by someone who had killed before. They say their client, with limited mental and physical abilities and no criminal history, could not have committed the crimes.

Lapointe suffers from Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a congenital brain malformation that results in hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. Casteleiro said his mental impairment also made him vulnerable to giving a false confession.

"He should not have been in a courtroom in the first place," said Casteleiro. "He should have never been charged. We don't welcome a retrial, but if they want to retry him, we'll be more than prepared."

His case became a cause celebre, receiving widespread publicity from advocates for the mentally disabled and celebrities, including writers Arthur Miller and William Styron. Centurion Ministries, which fights to free those wrongfully convicted of crimes, has represented him free of charge for 15 years.

Lapointe thanked those who had worked to free him, saying he wished he could kiss all of them. He also said he missed his family, whom he is barred from seeing by court order.

Lapointe will be living with a couple from East Hartford who has agreed to take him in while more permanent arrangements can be made, Casteleiro said. He is under a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and must report to the court whenever he leaves the house.

One of his first requests Friday was for a steak dinner. He also expressed fascination with the smartphones reporters were using during the news conference.

"I'm going to buy me one," he said after Casteleiro showed him that a phone could also take a picture.

Lapointe said that other inmates protected him in prison and that his time behind bars "wasn't that bad," to which attorney Kate Germond quipped, "There goes the civil suit."

Lapointe said he made it through the years by clinging to a single idea.

"I just kept thinking 'I'm going home, I'm going home, I'm going home,'" he said.

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