Exoneration of the day- Massachusetts Man charged with Murder in Norfolk County
Norfolk County man believed to be responsible for a May 1980 murder was exonerated after spending over 35 years behind bars. Fred Weichel was convicted of the murder of a 25-year-old man one night after leaving a local bar in Boston. Weichel was identified by two witnesses, stating they saw him fleeing the scene after gunshots were heard. The key witness in the case, who also gave the composite, identified the man as having “dark hair and a twisted nose, bushy eyebrows and long sideburns.”
One day after the shooting, another witness, an informant, implicated Mr. Weichel and a friend in the murder. Weichel was picked out of a line up after his August 1980 arrest. After his arrest, Weichel was indicted and charged with first-degree murder by the Norfolk County Superior Court.
The prosecution continued to present evidence and introduce possible motives for the crime; however the trial judge prohibited additional information from being presented to the court. On August 20, 1980, Weichel was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to Life in prison without parole.
After spending 11 years in prison, Weichel filed a motion for a new trial in 2002. He wanted to present additional evidence about the people he’d been in contact with over the years. Some were willing to have an affidavit prepared with their statements in regard to his innocence, including one affidavit written by his “implicated friend.” A letter addressed to Weichel mother stated “I haven’t had a good night sleep in almost a year because I know Fred did not kill ________. I did. “
The credibility of the prosecution’s key witness was shredded when the composite did not match, the physical description was off; all identifying physical markers were not that of Mr. Weichel. The key witness, also the FBI informant, was coaxed by his handler, an FBI agent who was working dirty. Ultimately the FBI agent was indicted and convicted on federal racketeering and obstruction of justice charges for covering up crimes.
Weichel was granted a new trial in 2004 in Norfolk County Superior, appealed in 2006 by the prosecution in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In 2011 Weichel filed another motion for a new trial after working with the New England Innocence Project. Evidence regarding the composite from 1980, plus letters received from prison regarding Weichel’s innocence, were entered as new evidence.
Weichel was granted a new trial and his conviction was vacated by Superior Court judge in April 2017. The judge stated the case could have had “a very different conclusion,” had they had access to the composite report presented in 1980. Weichel was released from prison April 27, 2017 on $5,000 bail.
To read the entire article, please visit: https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=5186