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Roland Fils

Other Massachusetts Cases
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On October 10, 2006, police raided an apartment in Springfield, Massachusetts and recovered more than 100 grams of cocaine, some of it packaged as if for sale, along with $6,000 in cash.

Later that day, 35-year-old Roland Fils came to the apartment with his cousin, Michaelange Leger, and called police because it was in such disarray that he thought it had been hit by burglars.

When police arrived, however, they arrested him and Leger. Fils and Leger, as well as Fils’ former girlfriend, Sharon Haywood, who lived in the apartment, were charged with cocaine trafficking and possession of cocaine within a school zone.

Fils and Haywood went to trial in Hampden County Superior Court in July 2008. Police Lt. Sheryl Clapprood testified that in one bedroom, on a vanity, she found a box containing packages of cocaine as well as two casino ID cards in the name of Roland Fils. Clapprood said the bedroom contained “all women’s clothing, women’s articles, women’s hair care products, [and] jewelry.”

Clapprood testified that the bags of cocaine in the box were consistent with drugs packaged for sale or street dealing. She also said she had no way of knowing who lived at that location or who may have had possession of the ID cards. Certificates of laboratory analysis showing that the seized drugs tested positive for cocaine were admitted as evidence.

Officer Pedro Soler testified that he searched a separate rear bedroom and found $6,000 in cash in the pocket of a man’s shirt. The owner of the shirt, however, was not identified and Soler said he did not know who lived there.

Officer Jeff Petrie told the jury he searched a separate front bedroom which had little furniture, but numerous boxes, bags and pieces of luggage. Inside one of the items, he found a Haitian passport in the name of Roland Fils. He also found other documents in Fils’s name, some with an address different from the apartment being searched. Petrie said he found Leger’s wallet under a mattress in yet another bedroom.

Officer Arthur Efantis testified that he found cocaine in a false ceiling in a bathroom as well as a bottle of Inositol, which was commonly used as a cutting agent for cocaine.

Leger testified for the prosecution and admitted that he had signed a statement implicating Fils and Haywood in the sale of cocaine, but claimed he had trouble with English (a last-minute request to have a Haitian interpreter at trial was denied). Leger said that his lawyer and the police forced him to “sign the paper,” and that he did so because he was scared.

Leger told the jury that he knew nothing about drugs in the apartment, nor had he ever seen Fils or Haywood with cocaine. He said that he had repeatedly told his lawyer he did not want to testify falsely regarding the cocaine found in the residence.

On July 9, 2008, the jury convicted Fils and Haywood of cocaine trafficking and possessing cocaine in a school zone. They were each sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an unrelated case, ruled that defendants have a right to cross-examine lab analysts who performed laboratory testing and that mere admission of a certificate of analysis in evidence without calling the analyst as a witness violated a defendant’s constitutional right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.

As a result, the prosecution agreed that Fils’s and Haywood’s convictions must be vacated. In July 2010, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts vacated the convictions and remanded the cases for retrial.

Fils went to trial a second time in January 2012. Unlike the first trial, Fils testified in his own defense. He told the jury that he had broken up with Haywood months before the drugs were found and was working in Hartford, Connecticut.

Fils said that at the time of the search, he no longer lived in the apartment, but some of his belongings were still there because he had not yet found a permanent place to live. Fils told the jury that he usually worked 12-hour days and therefore lived in a hotel in the Hartford area, except for occasional trips to Springfield to retrieve his belongings. He denied dealing or possessing cocaine, and said he did not know any cocaine was in the apartment.

Fils’s defense attorney, Marissa Elkins, presented evidence showing where Fils worked and documenting his hours.

On January 6, 2012, the jury acquitted Fils. He later filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state of Massachusetts, but the lawsuit was dismissed.

The charges against Haywood were later dismissed as well.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/4/2016
State:Massachusetts
County:Hampden
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Convicted:2008
Exonerated:2012
Sentence:12 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No