BOSTON -- A black man who served seven years in prison in the stoning death of a white man during racial violence in 1976 has been freed because the prosecution could not rely on two key witnesses in a retrial.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge James McGuire dismissed indictments Thursday charging Randolph Lewis, 26, with robbery and assault with intent to murder in the death of Richard Poleet, 36.
A new trial was ordered for Lewis two years ago. Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Edward Burns said he doubted the credibility of one witness and the other refused to cooperate. Both witnesses are in prison.
Both men allegedly were present when a band of youths stoned Poleet's car as he sat behind the wheel at a traffic light in Boston's Roxbury section. Prosecutors alleged Lewis beat Poleet as he lay unconscious in the front seat of his car.
Lewis had been held in lieu of $25,000 bail pending a new trial since the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled on Nov. 3, 1981 that his lawyer should have been permitted to cross-examine prosecution witnesses about their criminal records.
McGuire, who sentenced Lewis in 1977 to two 12- to 20-year concurrent terms, said after granting the state's motion to dismiss, it 'goes without saying that it (the motion) is allowed with reluctance.
'The cases ... were, in my opinion, well and fairly tried. I would not criticize any appelate action concerning the case, which was tried at a time of great racial tensions,' he said.
When the hearing ended, Lewis donned a camel-hair coat over his prison denims, rode an elevator down to the first-floor lobby and strolled to freedom.
The victim's brother, Thomas, said 'we're not pleased' with Lewis' release.
'But unfortunately the legal side of me says, 'What can you do?''