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Vincent Ferrara

Other Guilty Plea Murder Exonerations
On October 28, 1985, 25-year-old Vincent “Jimmy” Limoli, a member of the Patriarca organized crime family, was assassinated in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts.

Pasquale “Patsy” Barone and Walter Jordan, brother-in-laws and members of the Patriarca family, who were seen with Limoli shortly before his murder, fled Boston soon after.

In July 1988, Jordan was arrested in North Carolina and Barone was arrested in Ohio. Jordan reached an agreement with the prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn, to cooperate. Jordan admitted that he and Barone were involved in Limoli’s murder.

Jordan said that Barone killed Limoli on the orders of Vincent “The Animal” Ferrara, a “soldier” in the Patriarca family, because Limoli had stolen a bag containing guns, money and cocaine from a member of the family. Jordan testified before a federal grand jury and then entered the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection Program.

On March 22, 1990, Ferrara and Barone were among eight men indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston on a wide array of charges, including Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), gambling and extortion. Ferrara was named in 22 counts that included ordering Limoli’s murder. The prosecution theory was that Ferrara ordered Limoli’s murder to vindicate a wrong committed against another member of the family and because it would enhance Ferrara’s standing in the family.

During meetings in July 1991 before Ferrara’s trial, Jordan told the prosecution at least twice that Barone had not gotten permission from Ferrara to kill Limoli. During one meeting, prosecutor Auerhahn was present.

Jordan said he and Barone fled Boston because the word was out that Ferrara wanted them killed for murdering Limoli without permission.

However, Ferrara’s defense lawyers were never informed of those statements. Believing that Jordan was going to testify that Ferrara ordered Limoli’s murder, Ferrara, 42, pled guilty in January 1992 to the murder of Limoli as well as other charges of racketeering, extortion and gambling. Under the plea agreement, Ferrara was sentenced to 22 years in prison instead of the life sentence he faced if he went to trial and was convicted on all 22 counts against him.

In 1993, Jordan was the key witness testifying in Barone’s trial. Barone was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2002, Jordan came forward and admitted that his statement that Ferrara ordered Limoli’s murder was a lie. He claimed that he had recanted but had he had been coerced by prosecutors and investigators to stick to his original version.

Lawyers for Barone, who also had been convicted of Limoli’s murder, filed federal petitions for a writ of habeas corpus. During an evidentiary hearing in September 2003, the defense learned that the prosecution failed to disclose Jordan’s admissions that he and Barone killed Limoli without Ferrara’s permission.

Boston police detective Martin Coleman testified that Jordan recanted to him and that he had reported Jordan’s recantation to prosecutor Auerhahn. Coleman said that Jordan recanted again in a meeting with Coleman and Auerhahn. Coleman turned over a memo of the conversations, which U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf called “the smokingest gun I’ve ever seen.”

On October 24, 2003, Judge Wolf vacated Barone’s convictions and Barone then pled guilty to racketeering. He was sentenced to 10 years—time served—and released. He also pled guilty in state court to manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison.

On April 12, 2005, Judge Wolf vacated Ferrara’s convictions, saying, “The government’s misconduct utterly undermines the courts confidence in the outcome of Ferrara’s case.”

Ferrara then pled guilty to other charges and he was sentenced to time served. He was released in May 2005.

The prosecution appealed and on August 10, 2006, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Wolf’s decision.

“It is axiomatic that the government must turn square corners when it undertakes a criminal prosecution,” the appeals court said. “This axiom applies regardless of whether the target of the prosecution is alleged to have engaged in the daintiest of white-collar crimes or the most heinous of underworld activities. It follows that courts must be scrupulous in holding the government to this high standard as to sympathetic and unsympathetic defendants alike.”

“To sum up, the government’s actions in this case…paint a grim picture of blatant misconduct,” the appeals court said.

Judge Wolf reported prosecutor Auerhahn to the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation of his conduct. Subsequently, the department issued a private reprimanded. The Massachusetts Office of the Bar Counsel investigated and ultimately petitioned for a two-year suspension. However, a three-judge panel rejected the petition.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 5/1/2018
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Other Violent Felony, Other Nonviolent Felony
Reported Crime Date:1985
Sentence:22 years
Age at the date of reported crime:36
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No