Saturday, November 30, 2013

University activists work for John Connolly’s release

Boston Herald
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Jack Encarnacao

Corrupt ex-FBI agent John “Zip” Connolly — doing a 40-year stint in a Florida prison — is launching a Hail Mary appeal to overturn his conviction with the help of young legal eagles at the University of Miami School of Law.

The university’s Innocence Clinic is fighting for the former cohort of Southie mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, arguing the disgraced G-man was denied a chance to have his 2008 second-degree murder conviction overturned due to a lawyer’s flub.

The budding barristers have filed a motion for “post-conviction relief” claiming the 73-year-old Connolly was denied adequate representation after a judge determined a motion contesting the state’s charges had merit but was filed too late.

“I approached (the Innocence Clinic) and explained what was going on, and they took a look, reviewed everything, and said this fits their criteria,” said James McDonald, Connolly’s attorney. “We’re not done.”

The clinic is part of the National Innocence Project Network, a nationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to freeing innocent people who are incarcerated.

In a release touting its involvement in the Connolly case, the clinic cites an illegal enhancement of the charges authorities brought against Connolly in an effort to avoid Florida’s statute of limitations for second-degree murder, which would absolve Connolly of the 1982 slaying of John Callahan.

Callahan was shot by Bulger hitman James Martorano, a witness against both Bulger and Connolly.

The Innocence Clinic argues that under Florida law, Connolly had to possess the murder weapon to face the charge for which he was convicted.

Judge Stanford Blake of the 11th Circuit Appeals Court agreed with that argument when it was made by Connolly’s former attorney, Manuel Casabielle, in a December 2008 motion — but that motion was filed Dec. 2, 2008, just outside of the allowed window of 10 days after the Nov. 6 verdict.

Connolly was found guilty of racketeering by a federal jury in Boston in 2002 and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

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