Plea deal ending Tempest saga was city’s top story in 2017
I t’s been the top story of the year on more than one occasion in the recent past, but this will probably the last time the legal ups and downs of Raymond D. “Beaver” Tempest Jr. reaches the spot.
That’s because Tempest has paid his dues in full for the 1982 bludgeoning murder of Doreen C. Picard – a tab that comes to roughly 24 years and five months in prison for what remains one of the most brutal and intrigue-wrapped crimes in modern times.
As of Dec. 17, Tempest walked out of Superior Court a free man, sentenced to time served after making an “Alford” plea to charges of second-degree murder for the homicide. Though he continues to hold fast to his longstanding claim of innocence, the unusual admission stands as a conviction – Tempest’s second for the same crime.
For roughly two and a half years prior to offering the plea, Tempest had enjoyed what turned out to be a temporary and intensely scrutinized respite from his status as the man convicted of one of the most talked-about crimes in the city’s history.
The interlude was the result of the gargantuan legal efforts of the New England Innocence Project.
The original 1992 trial jury’s guilty verdict against Tempest was thrown out by Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Procaccini in July 2015 after NEIP’s lawyers convinced him it was the result of unfairly prejudicial police work and prosecutorial misconduct. The decision to vacate came after an arduous and costly legal effort by NEIP – one that dates back to 2004.
NEIP provided the defense at no cost to Tempest, but the Boston-based group says it would have been worth about $3.4 million if it had been billed out by regular lawyers.
Tempest rendered the Alford plea before a different jurist – Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause – who had been chosen to preside over the state’s efforts to put Tempest on trial a second time after Procaccini threw out the guilty verdict. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and others credited Krause with proposing the idea for the Alford plea as a way of putting the case to rest.
In some ways, the Alford plea allows the chief combatants in the case – Tempest and state prosecutors – to both walk away with something they want. Technically, Alford permits the defendant to admit nothing, except that the state was in possession of evidence that might have resulted in a conviction had it ever been put before a jury. Since the state never actually made the case, Tempest can cling to his longstanding claim that he was railroaded on trumped-up evidence, while prosecutors can say he stands convicted of the crime.
As Michael Kendall, the lead defense counsel in the case, said after his client made the plea, “Our view is there is no doubt about his innocence.”
Kendall also said Tempest, who turns 65 on Jan. 28 and has three grown children, had been urged by members of his family to put the case behind him in a way that guaranteed he would never again be at risk of returning to jail.
Unsurprisingly, while Kendall spun the Alford plea as a victory, state prosecutors stressed that Tempest, in the eyes of the law, stands convicted of Picard’s murder, a position at odds with the perennial claims of the defendant and his family.
Ronald and Simone Picard of Bellingham – Doreen’s parents – expressed a good deal of ambivalence about the resolution, however. During an interview after the Alford plea, Ronald said he and his wife would have preferred to see Tempest serve more time in jail and they did not feel as though they had much say in how the opposing lawyers and the judge agreed to settle the case. But he expressed admiration for Krause, praising his stern, by-the-books manner.
After thinking it over, he said, he could not bring himself to object to the settlement. “We accept what happened,” said Picard, an auto mechanic who became a selectmen in Bellingham in the years that followed his daughter’s homicide.
Picard had always been one of the most vocal advocates for justice in his daughter’s death, prodding investigators to keep digging away for the truth in a crime mired in allegations of a cover-up orchestrated by Tempest’s relatives on the Woonsocket Police Department back in the 1980s. Tempest’s brother, Gordon Tempest, was a detective on the force and his father was the state’s high sheriff and a former high-ranking detective for the WPD.
Gordon Tempest is one of three people who were con- victed of perjury for lying to a grand jury that, in 1991, ultimately returned an indictment of murder against Raymond Jr. He, too, served time in prison.
As Kilmartin said after Tempest’s plea, however, a homicide case is never really closed for a family that’s lost a child.
“At that end of the day, I don’t know what victory is when you have the loss of a young girl,” he said.
Prosecutors had always argued that Picard’s life was taken for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The operative theory of the case was that her slaying was meant to eliminate her as a witness after she stumbled upon the beating of her landlady, 27-year-old Susan Laferte.
The crime happened at 409 Providence St., on Feb. 19, 1982. Picard was entering the basement with a load of laundry when she interrupted the attack. Prosecutors argued that she was beaten beyond recognition with a length of pipe and strangled with her own sweater. Grievously wounded, Laferte survived, but was unable to recall the identify of her attacker due to the extent of her trauma.
Tempest had been free on bail pending a new trial since September 2015, after the state Supreme Court affirmed Procaccini’s decision to vacate the conviction.
He was ordered to home confinement with an electronic bracelet on his ankle that allowed probation authorities to monitor his whereabouts.
After tendering the Alford plea, the device was removed, marking the beginning of Tempest’s first day as a fully free man – no bail, no probation, no strings – since his indictment in 1991.