How I Became Involved in the Friends of Richard Lapointe
by Steve Greenspan
I was at a conference in I think New Orleans when I went to the men’s room. Bob Perske (who thinks it was Washington) was at the adjoining urinal and he started telling me about this trial in Hartford and urged me and my students to attend. I agreed that I would and that is how I became involved in the Friends as well as in the cause of people with ID caught up in criminal proceedings. Bob now describes that as the most productive piss he ever took. I can’t know that for sure, but I know it was the most productive one I ever took.
The first day I attended the trial, Richard was on the stand. The prosecutor (the most aggressive I’ve seen, and I’ve since seen some doozies) was asking Richard if could remember saying this or that and then got him to read his signed statement. To me, it looked like he was pretending to read it, as in spite of wearing these coke bottle glasses, he almost immediately kept saying “yes I guess I said that”. At the next break, I approached one of the public defenders and I said “I suppose you know he was covering up his inability to comprehend the statement”. Richard’s attorney said “yes I know it, and I am certain the jury will know that also”. Well, we all know how that worked out.
After Richard was convicted, I became involved in trying to help the defense team to put together a team of mitigation experts who knew something about Dandy-Walker syndrome (too bad that wasn’t the case during the confession suppression hearing). It is hard to comprehend today, given how flimsy the case against Richard was, but the prosecution was hell-bent on executing Richard. Thank God, the jury redeemed itself slightly by voting against that. Although I knew nothing about Dandy-Walker at the time, and even less about capital proceedings, I have since gone on to write scholarly pieces about both, and have made a second career as a mitigation and Atkins expert (thus far, always for the defense). I have Richard, and Bob, to thank for that.
I regret that I wasn’t able to be of more help to Richard when it counted, but I am trying to make up for it today in other cases. Living in Colorado now, I very much miss being an active member of the Friends, although I guess the old Burger King meetings have ended. My participation in the Friends was the most meaningful group experience that I have ever had. Like all of the other members, I pray that some day soon, Richard will get the freedom that this innocent man has too long been denied.
Steve Greenspan is a former Professor of Psychology at the University of Connecticut and now a Forensic Psychologist who testifies as an expert witness in criminal cases involving persons with intellectual disabilities.
Submitted January 2008