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    Ayer man’s rape conviction is overturned

    WOBURN — An Ayer man sentenced to serve up to 40 years in prison on a rape conviction has been granted a new trial by the same judge who, in sentencing him, called it the most brutal rape case she had ever seen.

    Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty overturned the 2007 conviction of David Coutu this month because she found his rights had been violated when his mother and a sister were prohibited from entering the courtroom during jury selection. He was convicted on charges of aggravated rape, assault and battery causing serious bodily injury, home invasion, masked armed robbery, and burning personal property.

    Coutu’s mother was kept out of the courtroom during the trial because it was unclear whether she would testify, but that order did not apply to jury selection, according to the ruling reported by The Sun of Lowell.


    Prosecutors said Coutu used a crowbar during the early-morning hours of March 9, 2006, to force his way from an empty apartment into the woman’s apartment.

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    When she screamed, her attacker beat her unconscious with the crowbar, tied her to the bed, and used the crowbar to rape her. Police found the crowbar under Coutu’s bed.

    ‘‘In my nine years on the bench, I have not seen a case of rape as brutal as this,’’ Haggerty said at sentencing.

    Coutu, 52, appealed in 2012. He remains behind bars.

    Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to appeal, said his attorney, Amy Belger.


    Belger said Coutu, who is tall and stocky, could not have fit through the hole in the wall between the apartments.

    ‘‘We are reviewing the court’s ruling and will be making a determination regarding the most appropriate course of action, including whether to pursue an appeal of the decision,’’ Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said in a statement.

    While acknowledging that the decision is based on a technicality, Belger said it is an opportunity to retry the case with DNA testing that was not available in 2007.