On December 8, 1980, three women were raped and robbed in their apartment in Boston by a man they described as African-American, five feet 10 inches tall with a thin build and a straggly beard. At the hospital, one victim said the assailant had an American accent.
The following day, the victims were interviewed and viewed about 200 police mug shots, including two photographs of 30-year-old Ulysses Rodriguez Charles, who had been arrested before by Boston police.
All three women identified Charles as their attacker.
On that same day, Stanley Bogdan, a Boston Police Department criminalist, collected a sheet from the bed where two of the rapes took place as well as the robe of one of the victims.
Police obtained a sample of Charles’s blood and an analysis of seminal fluid showed the attacker had blood type O and Charles had blood type B. That evidence was suppressed.
Charles was arrested on June 1, 1981, although he had a Caribbean accent, dreadlocks and gold front teeth—all distinctive characteristics.
In 1984, Charles went on trial and was identified by the victims, although one said she identified him from his photo because his hair was in dreadlocks, even though police didn’t have a photo of him in dreadlocks until after he was arrested.
In addition, Charles Campo, a Suffolk County assistant district attorney, elicited testimony from the analyst that the stains retrieved from the evidence were not seminal. Campo also failed to disclose that sperm had been retrieved on vaginal swabs, but that the evidence had not been preserved.
The analyst testified falsely that the rapist had failed to ejaculate. On June 14, 1984, Charles was convicted of unlawful confinement, rape and robbery. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
While in prison, Charles managed to obtain copies of the victims’ medical records and saw that vaginal swabs had been taken and that the hospital analysis showed that sperm was found. He learned that police had ignored the hospital request to retrieve the swabs and so they were destroyed.
In 1995, Charles sought to have the bed sheet and robe testified. The request was denied.
However, Charles continued his legal battle and in 1999, won a motion to have the evidence tested. DNA tests eliminated him as the source of the biological evidence.
On May 17, 2001, Charles convictions were vacated and the charges were dismissed. Charles, a native of Trinidad, was released on August 23, 2002 after being held in custody during a battle over whether he should be deported because of a previous drug conviction.
Charles filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit, which was settled for $3.25 million. He also received $500,000 in state compensation.
– Maurice Possley