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Louis Santos

Other Boston Exonerations
On October 28, 1983, 32-year-old Colleen Maxwell, a social worker, was murdered in Dorchester, Massachusetts as she was taking Charles Bartick, a client with Down's syndrome, to a subway station.

Maxwell and Bartick were confronted by three young black men with a gun, who demanded money.  After the assailants struck Bartick on the head, Maxwell ran off to get help, and then got her car and pursued the attackers.

About a half hour later, she was shot as she was trying to cut them off on a city street.  Two high school students saw three black men flee the scene of the shooting.  Maxwell later died of a single bullet wound. 
Police searched the area. About seven minutes after the shooting, they drove by a basketball court a mile from the scene where they saw several young men, three of whom ran away.  The police stopped one of the three – 20-year-old Louis Santos – who claimed that he ran because he had been carrying marijuana. 
Immediately after he was apprehended, Santos, in handcuffs, was presented to the two high school student witnesses. They identified him as one of the youths they saw run from the shooting.

Santos was taken to a police station where Bartik, who had identified the three attackers as black, viewed him in a room of white police officers. Bartick identifed Santos.
Santos went to trial in Suffolk County County Superior Court on charges of first-degree murder, assault and armed robbery. The evidence against him consisted of the various eyewitness identifications, and the fact that Maxwell’s wallet was found in a trash can between the crime scene and the park.  Santos’s alibi was that he was buying marijuana at the time. He offered alibi witnesses, but these witnesses were also selling and consuming drugs at the time, and one bragged about being a drug dealer and assaulting two police officers the year before. 
Bartick had difficulty identifying Santos in the courtroom.  He first identified Santos’s brother and then two white men, a police officer and an attorney.  The court allowed his earlier identification at the police station to be introduced into evidence.  Santos was convicted on October 4, 1985, and sentenced to life in prison. 
On July 11, 1988, Santos’s conviction was overturned by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts because the procedure used by the police to obtain Bartick's identification was unduly suggestive, and because Bartick should not have been allowed to testify without a competency hearing.

Santos was released that day. In 1990, prosecutors elected to try him again.  Bartick was permitted to testify at the second trial. He was not permitted to attempt an in-court identification and his identification in the police station was excluded.

On March 17, 1990, Santos was acquitted by a jury. The trial included new evidence about discrepancies between Santos’s appearance and the initial descriptions of the criminals, and evidence that another man – later convicted of attempted murder in New York – had admitted to committing the crime for which Santos was imprisoned.

Santos subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state of Massachusetts. The lawsuit was settled for $250,000.
Michael S. Perry

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 9/29/2017
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Assault
Reported Crime Date:1983
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No