In August 1988, several armed men wearing Halloween masks approached a crowd of people on the street in Roxbury, Massachusetts. In what appeared to be an attempt to kill a rival gang member, the men fired shots into a crowd, hitting and killing 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore.
Police arrested 23-year-old Shawn Drumgold and Terrence Taylor after eyewitnesses stated that they were seen with guns near the scene of the crime. Only one witness placed Drumgold directly at the scene, but was unable to pick his photo out of a lineup.
Only after significant media coverage that included photographs of Drumgold was the witness able to identify Drumgold at trial. A jury convicted Drumgold of first-degree murder in October 1989 and he was sentenced to life in prison. Taylor was acquitted.
In 2003, two witnesses recanted, claiming they were intimidated by police into providing testimony against Drumgold. It was also discovered that the police failed to tell the defense that one witness had a brain tumor that might have impaired her, that a second witness had been compensated in exchange for his testimony, and that the police had identified another viable suspect after Drumgold was arrested.
Alibi witnesses for Drumgold also came forward, claiming that they were too intimidated by police to speak up before his conviction. The trial court vacated Drumgold’s conviction in November 2003, and prosecutors decided not to retry him.
In April 2008, a federal jury in Boston found that police had violated Drumgold's civil rights during the investigation by concealing the compensation paid to the witness in the trial. The jury awarded Drumgold $14 million, plus interest. However, in February 2013, a federal Appeals Court overturned this decision and ordered a new trial for Drumgold's compensation claim, ruling that a judge's error may have influenced the jury's decision.
In May 2014, the city of Boston, having paid $2.7 million in legal fees to defend the case, agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying Drumgold $5 million.
- Stephanie Denzel