Joe's Summary

What follows is excerpted from a November, 2006, letter to an attorney:

At the moment I am in legal limbo. I tried after my last SJC appeal to go before the 1st circuit, but Harrington would not allow a hearing. I still contend that you cannot use the moral certainty language out of context and expect a jury, no matter how astute, to understand the ramifications of the language. Bear in mind that this is a strictly circumstantial case with no evidence or witnesses of any kind but circumstantial. It made the Moral Certainty language that much more onerous.

Many people over the years have read the transcripts and asked aloud how in the world the jury came back with a guilty verdict? Bear in mind the year and the political attitude toward Vietnam veterans. We were pariahs in our own land. In this trial I became a victim of a bad period of time in American history.

When I took the stand (in retrospect, my biggest mistake), the ADA literally screamed in my face: "You were in Vietnam and you killed lots of people, didn't you? Killing is no big deal to people like you. You're used to it, aren't you?" Judge Lappin pounded his gavel and made the ADA apologize to me, and then he had it all stricken from the record. That is how the guilty verdict was arrived at. I know — I saw their faces, and I remember . . . .

All you can see in the transcripts is the judge then ordering a recess, and when we returned, the ADA once again apologizing, and my attorney apologizing for my outburst. I had shouted at the ADA that he had no right to insult my military integrity. I did not mention then, because one never talks about these sorts of things, that I was highly decorated and had a perfect record. Never even had a reprimand in almost seven years. I retired honorably, and I went to college on the GI Bill, where I was on the Dean's List my very first semester. The jury only heard his tirade. With no other evidence to convict, what am I to feel but a prisoner of war in my own country these 36 years later?

Legally, at this point, not much can be done. That is why we have all embarked on a public relations campaign, for if I am scheduled to die in here, I am not dying without first letting this country know what they did to me. My war is an old one now, but to me it is fresh, as I remember all my comrades whose only fame is being etched on a granite wall. What happened to me could have happened to any one of them. When I get tired of fighting, I remember their faces, and I draw indomitable strength from the visage.

I am blessed in that I have such wonderful and dedicated friends who believe in me and my quest. We may not ultimately prevail upon the courts to overturn my conviction, but my mission will indeed be accomplished. I refuse to die in innocent silence.


Joe Labriola

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