The city of Boston on Wednesday issued a formal apology to two black men who had been falsely linked to the death of Carol Stuart, a 30-year-old pregnant woman who was shot in 1989, in one of the city's most famous cases. story that highlighted its racial disparities.
Alan Swanson and Willie Bennett were publicly and falsely named by the media as suspects in the murder, but were never formally charged.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu apologized at a news conference, on the heels of an extensive investigation by The Boston Globe published this month and a related HBO documentary series detailing how Boston's history of racism led to the botched investigation. .
“We are here today to recognize the tremendous pain that the city of Boston inflicted on the Black residents of our neighborhoods 34 years ago,” Ms. Wu said. “The mayor's office, city officials and the Boston Police Department took actions that directly harmed these families and continue to impact the community at large, reopening a wound that has gone unaddressed for decades.”
Swanson and members of Bennett's family attended the news conference.
“I want to say to Mr. Swanson and Mr. Bennett, to the entire Bennett family and to the entire black community in Boston: I am so sorry for what you endured,” Ms. Wu said. “What they did to you was unfair, unjust, racist and wrong.”
On the night of October 23, 1989, Charles Stuart, who was white, called police from his car phone to say that he and his pregnant wife, Carol, had been shot. Mr. Stuart survived a gunshot wound to the chest, but his wife died, as did his premature son 17 days later.
Mr. Stuart told police that a black man wearing a black tracksuit had stolen their car after a childbirth class, forcing them to drive through Boston's Mission Hill neighborhood “into an abandoned area.”
The report led to an intense manhunt. Within days, Swanson, then 29 years old and homeless, was arrested. Police found a black tracksuit in a sink in the Mission Hill apartment where he was arrested. Authorities charged Mr. Swanson with robbery, but he was eventually released as there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder.
Soon, the police turned their attention to Mr. Bennett, based on sworn statements given by teenagers who later said that the police had forced them to give such statements. Mr. Bennett, who had a lengthy criminal record, was arrested in connection with an unrelated matter and later charged with robbing a video store.
Stuart later identified Bennett in a police lineup.
However, a few days later it was revealed that the story was a lie. Matthew Stuart, Mr. Stuart's younger brother, told police that it was actually Charles who planned the murder as part of a staged robbery. Matthew admitted to police that he had helped get rid of his brother's gun.
Mr Bennett was exonerated of the murder but was jailed for 12 years for the video store robbery, which he claimed he did not commit.
Carlos Stuart later committed suicide, while his brother pleaded guilty to criminal charges, including conspiracy and insurance fraud, and was jailed for three years.
City officials and police were heavily criticized for their handling of the case, as was the media, which had pushed the narrative that the wrongly accused suspects were guilty. The Bennett family sued the city of Boston, but was only able to obtain $12,500 in settlements.
“There was no evidence that a black man had committed this crime,” Ms. Wu said Wednesday, “but that didn't matter because the story confirmed and exposed beliefs shared by so many, from residents and reporters to officers.” and officials. At every level and at every opportunity, those in power closed their eyes to the truth because the lie was familiar to them.”
Joey Bennett, Bennett's nephew, was present at Wednesday's news conference. Willie Bennett didn't show up. He is now 73 years old, sick and has not spoken publicly about the case in years, according to The Globe.
“We just want to express our gratitude to Mayor Wu for the apology,” Joey Bennett said. “His bravery in acknowledging the wrongdoing of the Boston police and offering a sincere apology is something we deeply respect and appreciate.
“Your apology is accepted,” he added.
He also acknowledged Mr. Swanson in his comments.
“So he is a family friend and we chose to have him stand in solidarity with us so he can apologize to us,” Bennett said. “He was wronged. He has not been right since that case.”
Swanson did not address reporters at the news conference, but later told The Associated Press that while he was “glad this was happening today,” he still faced financial ruin.
“I just need financial compensation for all the trouble and pain I'm still going through,” he said.
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