THE 1988 murder of Darlene Tiffany Moore, a 12-year-old girl sitting on a Roxbury mailbox, marked a tragic high point in Boston’s then-skyrocketing murder rate. Police were under intense pressure to find the killer or killers, with the mayor and much of the city demanding justice. Eventually, a suspected gang member named Shawn Drumgold was tried, found guilty, and sent to prison.
But there was little physical evidence, and a key witness recanted. Drumgold’s conviction eventually was overturned on the grounds that Boston police hadn’t revealed that the witness, a homeless street kid, had been put up in a motel, given meals, and paid at least $20. After 14 years in prison, Drumgold was a free man. Four years ago, a federal jury awarded him $14 million in damages from the Boston police; the city appealed, arguing that the judge should have instructed the jury to find the city liable only if the police’s failure to reveal the payments to the witness had been a decisive factor in the jury’s decision to convict. Earlier this month, the appeals court ruled for the city. Drumgold’s lawyer vowed to press on for another trial.