Sometime in 1994, I saw an announcement in the local newspaper about Richard Lapointe, contrasting his situation with a current famous murder trial going on where almost unlimited resources were available to bring about a not guilty verdict in a case that obviously had many mitigating circumstances, if not direct evidence of the defendant’s guilt. The announcement urged those who had a possible interest in Richard’s case to telephone a number, ask for more information and perhaps join The Friends of Richard in supporting him personally while in prison – and after — and also help in pursuing legal means to get him released from prison.
When I called the number, the lady who answered recognized my voice and identified herself as Peg Dignoti, then Executive Director of ARC/CT. My company had furnished court reporters in a recent trial involving ARC’s efforts to close institutions housing the developmentally disabled, so she and I had spoken many times during the course of this litigation and in the process had become friends, although I had not known of her connection with Richard’s case.
Anyhow, Peg told me some of the particulars of Richard’s case and invited me to attend the next meeting of The Friends who at that time were meeting monthly at a local Burger King restaurant. I can remember vividly my feelings when I entered the meeting room that night, saw the many people there gathered around the table, and heard them speak about Richard’s case and their dedication to efforts to help him survive his time in prison while pursuing avenues to gain his release. I have told friends and family that it was like being in church and hearing a powerful sermon. I was deeply touched by the sincerity of these people, The Friends, who had been meeting for so long and working so hard for a disabled man they had never known before his trial, and I had no doubt about joining them and doing whatever I could to help Richard.
Since that time, having had the privilege of visiting Richard in jail and getting to know him personally, I am always impressed by his lack of bitterness toward those who betrayed him and took advantage of his disabilities to falsely accuse and prosecute him for a crime he did not commit. He bears no ill will toward anyone, has retained his unique sense of humor, looks forward to his visits with The Friends – and follows his favorite baseball team, the Red Sox, faithfully and looks forward to going to a game soon with his special friend, Bob Perske.
submitted August 2008