“Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” is generally speaking an accurate truism. But in some cases, not so. Legal events this past week in Falmouth District Court make clear that exception.
Thirty years ago, in January of 1980, a woman by the name of Frances Carriere was found murdered in the bathroom of her Bourne, Massachusetts home. She had been stabbed three times in the lungs and heart. From the beginning, her then-estranged husband Edmond T. Carriere, whom Frances had been separated from, had been identified by authorities as a suspect. However, Edmond Carriere had been in Florida at the time of the Massachusetts murder, and police were not able to establish sufficient evidence to charge him with involvement in his wife’s murder. In 1982, a friend of Edmond Carriere’s by the name of Richard Grebauski was indicted by a Barnstable County Grand Jury in connection with Carriere’s murder, but the charges were dropped in 1983 when Philip A. Rollins, the then-Barnstable County District Attorney, determined there was insufficient evidence to go forward with the trial. From that point until 1999, while the case remained technically open, no progress was made, and most of the previous investigators on the case had either retired or died.
Then, in 1999, a state police sergeant by the name of Paul White who was then assigned to the Massachusetts State Police cold-case squad, and a trooper by the name of Chris Mason, took up the investigation anew. In April 2000, a special Grand Jury was appointed to examine evidence in the case. In 2001, Carriere’s four adult children also hired a private investigator by the name of Terrence O’Connell to investigate their mother’s murder. All these efforts yielded new results: In 2003, two men were indicted by a Barnstable County Grand Jury for the murder of Frances Carriere: Richard Grebauski, of Wareham (the same individual who had narrowly avoided being tried for Carriere’s murder in 1982,) and a Steven Stewart of Brockton. In 2004, curiously, Richard Grebauski died in a motorcycle accident while visiting none other than Edmond Carriere in Florida.
In 2005, a Barnstable County jury convicted Steven Stewart for the murder of Frances Carriere, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. During Stewart’s 2005 trial, witnesses testified that during a card game, Carriere offered them money to kill his wife. At that trial, there was additional testimony that Carriere allegedly paid Richard Grebauski $10,000 for the killing. Grebauski was alleged to have then paid Stewart $5000 of that money to join him in the murder. With Stewart’s conviction, justice seemed to have been done.
However, in 2009, on appeal the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned Stewart’s conviction and ordered a new trial, ruling that a witness at Stewart’s earlier trial was improperly questioned by the prosecution. Stewart’s new trial was scheduled to begin in a few weeks, when the Barnstable County District Attorney’s Office was faced with a Hobson’s Choice: Take the risk that without the prior witness (at Stewart’s 2005 trial) being available for testimony, Stewart might receive an acquittal at the new trial – or “do a deal with the devil”: Strike some acceptable plea bargain with Stewart (one of the two men who actually committed the murder,) in exchange for his testimony implicating Edmond Carriere.
That’s one tough choice, legally and morally: What to do? Risk that both men remain free, or find some small satisfaction that Stewart had already served seven years for Frances Carriere’s death, and secure a way to convict the man that almost all investigators believed was the master planner of this murder – Edmond Carriere? District Attorney Michael O’Keefe made the deal: Instead of re-trying Stewart on a charge of murder one, he would allowed Stewart to plea guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, with a joint recommendation (i.e., agreed to by both the prosecution and Stewart’s defense attorney,) that Stewart’s sentence be reduced to time already served (seven years.) Again, not an easy choice. But life isn’t about easy choices – especially life as a prosecutor or criminal defense attorney.
Yet all four of Carriere’s four adult children celebrated this decision and the indictment of Edmond Carriere. “This has been a long time in coming,” said Linda McCraney, one of the Carriere’s four children, who now lives in Florida. “I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. None of us – my sisters, my brother, my aunt or me, would be in this position now if not for what my father did to my mother 30 years ago. Our lives were changed in ways that no one could have expected.” Over the years, the Carriere children have maintained that their father believed that his wife would be awarded their house if their divorce proceedings that were underway at the time, continued forward. They’ve stated that their father was convinced that their parents’ home would substantially increase in value because of state highway plans in 1980 to extend Route 25 directly to the Bourne Bridge and to develop a new rotary near the exit ramp in Buzzards Bay, and he didn’t want to lose the house to his wife in divorce proceedings.. (Prior to these highway changes, traffic to the Bourne Bridge had to pass through Wareham and the center of Buzzards Bay.)
As a Boston criminal defense lawyer, it’s my professional obligation to presume a defendant innocent. But I can say that when four adult children literally celebrate the arrest and indictment of their own father for their mother’s murder, (coupled with all the other evidence in this case,) little more need be said.
From the day this murder occurred, Edmond Carriere has long been a suspect in this case, by seemingly everyone involved in it over thirty years’ time. It seems now that, in this case at least, justice delayed may not be justice denied. This trial will be interesting to follow.