NEW BEDFORD -- George Perrot, a Springfield man whose 1992 rape conviction was overturned in a groundbreaking decision last month, is free after 30 years behind bars.
At an emotional bail hearing Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Robert Kane released Perrot on his own recognizance and said the case against Perrot would likely not result in a conviction -- or even get to a jury -- should prosecutors re-try the charge.
Perrot wept into the prison jumpsuit he has worn for the last three decades as the judge spoke, and hugged the lawyers who took his case free of charge. When he emerged unshackled a few moments later, he was in street clothes. He hugged his mother.
“She told me I better not go back in there,” said Perrot, now 48, when asked what he and his mother had whispered to each other as they embraced. He said there was a steak dinner in his future.
Perrot’s conviction rested heavily on the analysis of a single hair found at the scene of the violent rape of his neighbor in Springfield. Perrot always maintained his innocence, and the victim, then 78 and now deceased, never identified him as her assailant. The man who attacked her was clean shaven, she insisted; Perrot had a beard.
An FBI analyst insisted, however, that the hair at the scene was Perrot’s. But the science behind hair analysis has since been debunked -- more convictions could soon be overturned -- and Kane in a January ruling overturned the conviction.
It’s unclear whether Hampden County prosecutors, who argued Wednesday that Perrot should be held without bail, will seek to try Perrot again. Prosecutors waited to emerge from the courtroom until Perrot did, leaving amid the scrum surrounding the newly free man.
The evidence against Perrot consisted primarily of the wayward hair and a confession, that his lawyers argued was made during an intense 12-hour interrogation, conducted with no parent or lawyer present, during which he was incoherent and high on drugs. And prosecutor Francis W. Bloom, Kane wrote, despised Perrot.
His case was eventually taken on by Kirsten Mayer and other lawyers from Ropes & Gray, The Innocence Project, and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.
On Wednesday, Mayer wept in court as she read a document she had never seen before -- a snippet of a psychological evaluation of Perrot conducted in the 1980s, she said later, that was a testament to both his introspection about his troubled life and his innocence.
“In life there are so few times when any of us have a chance to right a major injustice,” Mayer said outside the courthouse. “We feel privileged that we had the opportunity to help Mr. Perrot.”
Perrot led his mother slowly down the stairs from the courtroom and around the block. He stopped at the curb and looked down at the icy water pooling below. He stepped into the puddle -- a free man -- and hoisted his mother over the water.