The family of a man convicted in 2005 of murdering his friend wants a new trial. New witnesses have since come forward, and an Innocence Project is looking into the case. The Mashpee Enterprise did an in-depth story on the case, and WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Enterprise reporter Jessica Hill about what she learned.
Eident The family of a Mashpee man convicted of murder in 2005 will hold a vigil in Hyannis Saturday.
They want to call attention to the case of Louis Mathews, who was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal killing of his friend, Scott Turner. Turner was last seen with Mathews leaving a bar in Mashpee on a June night in 2004. Turner's body was found the next morning, a few houses away from where Mathews spent the night. Police picked up Mathews as a suspect and ended up charging him with murder.
Both Mathews and his family say he is innocent—they say crucial details were overlooked at the time of the trial that led to his conviction. And now, new witnesses are coming forward, and an Innocence Project is looking into the case.
The Mashpee Enterprise recently published an in-depth story explaining the night of the murder, and highlighting some of the details Mathews’ family say should be looked at once again.
I spoke with reporter Jessica Hill about some of those details.
Good morning, Jessica.
Eident As so many crime stories are, this is a story that has a lot of details. The prosecution at the time said Mathews was guilty of killing Turner by beating him over the head, due to evidence, they say included traces of blood on Matthew's clothing and blood at the crime scene, and on the body, and by disputing some of the details in Mathew's story. Family has maintained his innocence all along. What are some of the developments, or some of the pieces of this story, that you looked at that Mathew's family thinks warrant a new trial?
Hill So, I think the first one, and probably one of the more important ones, is the fact that prosecution used inconclusive DNA in the case. And, this is actually allowed. when the defense argues an ineffective investigation, then prosecution is lot to use, inconclusive DNA evidence during the trial. So, all of the samples that were collected and tested, tested positive for blood, but they could not confirm whose blood it was in most parts.
So, that's one of the big things that Louis' family has argued, because nothing really physically has tied them together. One thing that I brought up in my article was the possibility of a third party. And, this is something that Louis' family has argued with the case of Tom Winner. About a few weeks after Scott Turner was killed, another woman was killed. The woman was named Lisa Brundage, and she was dating Scott Turner and also Thomas Winner.
Eident And police at the time, or the prosecution at the time, tied Mathews to the murder because Scott Turner and Louis Matthews were friends. Leaving a bar with one of the last times that Turner was seen alive. But now it looks like, especially with some of the reporting in your story, there are maybe some holes with Louis' family saying that he can be accounted for and all of those hours where Scott Turner was beaten, and then later found dead in the morning, right?
Hill Right. So Linda Turner, Scott's sister, pins Louis in the house around 4:00 a.m. and she also comes out again at 6:00 a.m.. And meanwhile, at 152 Ninigret, which is where Scott's body is later found, an elderly woman who lives there looks out the window around 4:00 and doesn't see anything, and a newspaper delivery doesn't see anything. So, if the body is placed there after that, then it couldn't have been Louis because he was in the house. However, the elderly lady and also the newspaper delivery man might not have seen the body because it was dark.
Eident And his family has said that there is a racial component to this case because Matthews was Cape Verdean and Turner was white. The jury was all white. Can you talk a little bit more about that element in the story?
Hill So in the trial, the jury was all white. However, during the case, they were asked, "will the fact that the defendant is Cape Verdean and the victim is white--will that affect your bias in any way? Will you be biased or will that affect any of your verdicts?" Everyone said "no."
However, I did talk to the director of the racial justice program at the ACLU in Boston, and he said that most definitely having an all-white jury can play a role in a black man's verdict.
Eident So now the police and the district attorney's office, which prosecuted the case, didn't exactly have a lot to say to you. But you did talk to a retired police officer who was part of the case at the time.
Hill Yes, briefly. He didn't say a whole lot with me because he wanted me to talk to the Massachusetts State Police. But he basically just said that it seemed like a clear cut case at the time. Louis was the last person to be with Scott, and that was just like such a direct correlation.
Eident So, you spent a lot of time on this story, and this is a long story, it goes into all the details. What prompted you and your editor to put something like this together in something like the Mashpee Enterprise?
Hill A few months ago, I saw a post on one of the Mashpee Facebook pages that I have been following, and I didn't know anything about this case and it didn't seem like anyone else knew about it. So, I started researching it. I went to the courthouse and read some of the documents and saw this huge long list of this man kind of just pleading and appealing verdicts and just trying to get this case appealed.
I started researching it, and contacted the family, read the 828-page court transcript. And during this whole time, I wasn't sure if we'd be able to publish the whole thing. It might have been, you know, a couple thousand words, or it could have been 5000 words, which is how it ended up being. So, I was really happy with how it turned out and that the editors let me publish it all.
Eident Were there any surprises in this reporting for you?
Hill Yes. Probably the biggest surprise, and probably the biggest disappointment, was that I couldn't find any of Scott Turner's family to talk to. I reached out and maybe they didn't see it. But, no one responded.
Eident But, you've gotten some feedback since this story has been published.
Hill Yes. Mostly positive. I did hear from one of Scott Turner's family members. It was all off the record, unfortunately.
Eident And the case is actually getting some attention off Cape, right? The Committee for Public Counsel Services has an Innocence Program because Mathew's case was prosecuted by a public defender. Is that right?
Hill Correct. Yes. So, they were originally looking at the New England Innocence Project. However, Louis' cousin reached out and they said that because Louis' case is with public defenders, they can't take that. So, she did find out recently that the public defenders, they have their own Innocence Project and they have just started to take a look at the case. And, they also have some new leads coming up. They recently hired a private investigator and some new witnesses are coming forward.
Eident Do you think this case has any kind of bigger significance either for the region, or just in general?
Hill I definitely think it speaks to the current state of the United States justice structure. Rahsaan D. Hall, the director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU, said that since the time of slavery, through Reconstruction and Jim Crow, to mass incarceration rates, we can see this imbalance with people of color and how they are more directly accused of crimes. So, Louis' family has just been saying that sometimes you point to the nearest black man instead of looking and doing a full investigation.
Eident And as I said, there are so many details in this story that we couldn't possibly get to here. And, it sounds like we'll be hearing more if this case actually gets a new trial. Enterprise reporter Jessica Hill, thank you so much for coming in and talking about your work.
Hill Thank you.
This transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.