Injustice experienced by Raymond "Beaver" Tempest in Rhode Island
23 Years In Jail - Conviction Vacated In 2015
Irrespective of the petitioner's guilt or innocence, justice demands the setting aside of his conviction ... It is clear that he was deprived of a fair trial when he was found guilty" - Judge Procaccini.
Due to legal proceedings in this case caught.net could not update this case for some time. Below you will find the key points in the ruling that vacated the conviction in July of 2015. This page will also be filling in gaps regarding other facts in this case not a part of the ruling as well as issues directly related to the case.
Judge Procaccini found that the actions of Woonsocket police and prosecutors in violating Tempest's due process rights by unduly suggestive questioning of witnesses, failing to disclose evidence and suppressing key details about a witness's changing statements called for the conviction to be vacated.
Among Procaccini's findings were that Woonsocket police did not disclose that the owner of a maroon car that a witness said she saw outside the murder scene told them at the time of Tempest's trial that he never lent or sold the car to Tempest's alleged accomplice. Testimony placing Tempest in a maroon car and, in turn, placing that car at the scene was the "only link" tying Tempest to [the crime scene].
The court also looked to the concession of former Sgt. Ronald Pennington, who led the investigation, that he would "suggest facts the witness had not raised to prod their memory" as evidence of improper police practices. "The importance of Sergeant Pennington's admission is evident: these actions run directly counter to standard police practice and implicate due process concerns," Procaccini wrote. "Indeed, this court cannot fathom a set of circumstances more compelling that the repeated and insistent prompting by law enforcement for witnesses to "remember critical facts about events that had occurred many years prior."
The judge also faulted ex-Woonsocket Police Chief Rodney C. Remblad's questioning of another alleged accomplice outside a bar at 11 p.m. as problematic.
The ruling criticized James W. Ryan, who prosecuted Tempest, for directing a witness not to include details of her account that didn't correspond with earlier versions. Ryan wrote in his notes "too late, don't volunteer new info, will cause big problems." Ryan testified at the hearing that the disclosure would lead to "headaches." "Constitutional rights cannot be tossed aside whenever they present the smallest inconvenience," the judge wrote.
Other issue mentioned in the ruling regarding the crime scene:
- The crime scene was "never properly secured" or "cordoned off" while a swarm of officers packed into the basement.
- The only person available to gather evidence was "totally unfamiliar with Bureau of Criminal Investigations procedures and the handling of the evidence."
- Midway through the night, the police captain arrived, having "spent several hours in a bar" before taking the reins in directing the processing of the scene
- The investigation at [the crime scene] was conceded to be "a disaster" by the State
- Assistant Attorney General James Ryan (Mr. Ryan) stated at trial that the severe lack of physical evidence was due to the fact that "the job [i.e. the necessary investigatory procedures] didn't get done" and that "every police officer from the Woonsocket Police Department seems to have been there except for the ones who should have been there." Noting the "chaos" and "disorder" surrounding the collection of evidence, Mr. Ryan went on to say that "the end result is that the crime scene was contaminated."
Other issue mentioned in the ruling regarding the trial and appeal
- "The State put forward a parade of witnesses: Ronald Vaz, John Guarino, Donna Carrier, and Loretta Rivard, each claiming that Mr. Tempest had confessed to Doreen Picard's murder in his or her presence years earlier. In spite of a dearth (lack) of physical evidence tying Mr. Tempest to the scene and at least partial impeachment of these inculpatory witnesses, Mr. Tempest was found guilty. His conviction was affirmed by our Supreme Court on January 11, 1995"
- "Mr. Vaz's [original] trial testimony was mortared with a hastily-made blend of inconsistencies and half-truths. Mr. Tempest's defense attorney, Mr. Dimitri, dutifully picked apart Mr. Vaz's testimonial house of cards during the course of cross-examination, thoroughly demolishing Mr. Vaz's credibility. In spite of this, a guilty verdict stuck."
- "After thorough testing over the course of the last decade, the fact remains that not a shred of physical evidence ties Mr. Tempest to the scene."
- "...the State's case which, it bears noting once again, was based entirely on circumstantial evidence."
- "Accordingly, being satisfied that the State failed in its duty to disclose such material exculpatory evidence, the Court finds that vacation of Mr. Tempest's conviction is constitutionally required."
- "the protean [ever changing] nature of Ms. Carrier's testimony was not only a "big problem" in the eyes of Prosecutor Ryan, it was necessarily harmful to the State's case. By deciding not to disclose the newly arisen variations in her story, Mr. Ryan evidently sought to protect Ms. Carrier from additional impeachment. Such a "considered decision to suppress" automatically necessitates relief."
- "the record establishes two Brady violations requiring vacation of Mr. Tempest's conviction - the failure to disclose the McManns' statements to police that they never loaned their maroon sedan to Mr. Monteiro as well as the deliberate suppression of changes in Ms. Carrier's statement by the prosecution."
- With Sergeant Pennington's forthright admission, Mr. Tempest's past conjecture regarding the possibility of such witness coaching has been confirmed; it is now apparent that the police fed witnesses information in an effort to move the case against Mr. Tempest forward
- "Internally, police officers aligned with the Tempest family clashed with Commander Remblad and his anti-Tempest confederacy in conducting the investigation."
- "Sergeant Pennington interviewed Ms. Richards over ten times in the course of his investigation. During this time, her story shifted in lockstep with the State's theory of the case"
- A similar pattern can be seen in the testimony of Ms. Ladue. In three interviews following the murder, she never mentions seeing an unfamiliar car in the driveway at the house. Then, ten years later, Ms. Ladue has a revelation. Following a phone conversation with Sergeant Pennington, her memory is conveniently jogged. Just in time for trial, she miraculously recalls seeing a strange car parked outside [the crime scene] on that fated day ten years prior. The color of this car? Maroon. After a decade-long amnesia, Ms. Ladue is now able to provide police with exactly what they want - eyewitness testimony linking Mr. Tempest to the scene.
- Perhaps the most telling example of police coaching comes in the form of the so-called "GridIron Tape," the recording of a conversation between then Commander Remblad of the Woonsocket Police Department and a very intoxicated Mr. Shaw. During the course of this meeting, which took place outside the local GridIron bar at eleven o'clock at night, Mr. Shaw struggled to string together a coherent sentence...Commander Remblad pushed Mr. Shaw to implicate Mr. Tempest before the Grand Jury in his testimony on the coming Tuesday. He fed a motive to Mr. Shaw, telling him that Mr. Tempest and Ms. Laferte "had a beef about the animals[,]" to wit the sale of the dog, and that "[h]e and her had problems.". Commander Remblad also coached Shaw on how the murder took place, instructing that Mr. Tempest had "hit the God damn beams in the ceiling" during the assault - a fact Mr. Shaw would later revisit upon touring the crime scene with law enforcement
- "With over a decade between the events and questioning and a virtually endless loop of suggestive interviews, police procedure in the Tempest case created a perfect storm for flawed witness statements"
- "Regardless of whether police intended to interfere with the witnesses' recollection of events here, the taint of improper police procedure so poisoned the well that Mr. Tempest's conviction cannot stand."
- The power of the state and the authority of law enforcement must be checked by judicial intervention
- "The Court concludes its discussion where it began - with the simple eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice." Today, after over twenty years, the arc bends. Accordingly, Mr. Tempest's petition to set aside his conviction is GRANTED."
Other issues regarding the Woonsocket Police:
Taken, in part, from this Providence Journal article:
Former Woonsocket Police Chief Rodney C. Remblad testified Tuesday that he waited for years as a lower ranking officer to tell the lead investigator in the 1982 slaying of a 22-year-old woman that he had received information linking Raymond D. "Beaver" Tempest Jr. to the crime. Police Chief Joseph G. Baillargeon told him "'Keep it to yourself'," he said.
Remblad had to follow the chain of command, he said, and did as the chief instructed. He was ordered not to get involved in the case, he said. He passed the information along to Sgt. Ronald A. Pennington in 1987, five years after the bludgeoning of Doreen C. Picard and the beating of her landlord, Susan Laferte, he said.
What made him change course and decide to disclose the information, asked Special Assistant Attorney General Jeanine G. McConaghy. "At that point the chief was gone, and I was now the detective commander," Remblad said. Michael Kendall, one of a team of lawyers representing Tempest on behalf of the New England Innocence Project, noted that Baillargeon retired in 1984, but Remblad had waited another three years to divulge the information his brother-in-law Stanley Irza had supplied.
The case was cold for years until Remblad passed along to Pennington information supplied by Irza, who was convicted of running a chop shop. The detective who arrested Irza in 1987 was Raymond Tempest's brother, Officer Gordon Tempest.
Irza refused to talk with Pennington because he didn't like him, Remblad said Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Procaccini asked Remblad how he could ethically and morally tolerate information about such a heinous crime being withheld from an investigation simply because Irza didn't like Pennington. "He had been threatened," Remblad said of Irza, prompting exasperation from Procaccini.
Under questioning by McConaghy, Remblad said that once he passed off to Pennington information that Tempest might be linked to the murder, he stepped away from the investigation. Kendall later produced a report from an interview days after Remblad told Pennington of Tempest's possible connection, in which Remblad and then city public safety director John R. Dionne had interviewed a man who later proved to be a key witness against Tempest.
Testimony since proceedings began before Procaccini early last month has revealed that the Woonsocket Police Department lacked protocols at the time of the Picard investigation for handling informants, conducting interviews and taking witness statements.