Search for Pregnant Woman's Murderer Called a 'Witch Hunt'

From United Press International

The attorney for William Bennett, the man who was falsely accused of slaying a pregnant woman and wounding her husband, said Saturday that authorities had conducted a "witch hunt" for suspects, and he called for an investigation of Boston police and Suffolk County Dist. Atty. Newman Flanagan.

Newspaper and television reports Saturday quoted Dereck Jackson, 17, whose affidavit was the foundation of the case against Bennett, as saying police coerced him into telling them that he heard Bennett confess to the shootings of Charles and Carol Stuart.

Bennett was never charged with the shootings but was named in police leaks to reporters. One investigator told the Boston Globe that Charles Stuart had positively identified Bennett in a lineup.

Massachusetts Atty. Gen. James M. Shannon promised full cooperation with anyone alleging police misconduct or civil rights violations, but stopped short of pledging his own probe.

"I hope the people who make those allegations will come forward and talk to me and talk to the U.S. attorney, and we stand ready to ensure that the law is enforced," Shannon said. "But beyond that, I hope we'll have a much broader range of inquiry into how our community reacted to all of this."

Boston Police Commissioner Francis (Mickey) Roache also endorsed a review of potential civil rights violations, but insisted it was too early for an internal investigation into his department's handling of the case.

Jackson told reporters his statement to police was loosely based on a conversation with Bennett's teen-age nephew. Jackson said he believed that the nephew was either joking or boasting, but when he tried to retract his story police scared him into sticking by his statement, threatening to jail him for 20 years.

"Apparently there was a witch hunt going on, and the evidence that was out there against Charles Stuart lay there dormant and undiscovered because the police were so intent in trying to nail Bennett for this case," said Bennett's attorney, Robert George.

Bennett was exonerated after Charles Stuart committed suicide Jan. 4.

A special grand jury reconvened Friday to hear testimony in the Oct. 23 shooting.

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