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Boston to Review Procedures on Crimes

Scrutiny comes after a man has murder charges dropped and another is cleared in a 1991 rape.

March 09, 2004|From Associated Press

BOSTON — Prosecutors and city police said Monday they would review how they investigate and prosecute crimes, in response to the release of a man wrongfully convicted of rape and a decision to drop charges against a murder suspect.

Monday, Suffolk Dist. Atty. Daniel Conley's office asked a judge to release Anthony Powell, 34, who was convicted of a 1991 kidnapping and rape, after new DNA evidence indicated he was not the rapist.

Conley also said that today his office would ask a judge to drop charges against William Leyden, who was charged with killing and decapitating his brother in 2001. Another man has claimed to be the killer, according to court documents.

"Even in the best system, mistakes can happen," Conley said, apologizing to both men.

Powell left court Monday surrounded by family and supporters, and didn't speak to reporters. His brother, James, told WHDH-TV that "sometimes you've got to let things go, and work with what you have."

In 2002, prosecutors agreed to DNA tests on sperm from the rape, and found it was not Powell's. Friday, further tests proved the sperm did not belong to the woman's boyfriend, her only consensual sexual partner at the time.

In the other case, Leyden was arrested and charged with his brother's murder, but prosecutors later learned that another man had admitted to killing John Leyden, whose decomposed and decapitated body was found in March 2001.

Conley declined to say whether Eugene McCollom, the man who has reportedly admitted to the killing, would be charged.

McCollom is also facing charges in a second beheading case. His lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

A working group will review how all cases, particularly those that rely on eyewitness identification, are investigated and prosecuted. It would recommend "new practices and tighter controls," Conley said.

Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said she had also asked a national certification group to review her department's identification and ballistics units.

"I know that's no comfort to [Powell], 12 years later, after he spent all this time in prison -- and for that we're truly sorry -- but we obviously need to embrace constant improvements," she said.

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