Mark Schand is Free at Last


Mark Schand was wrongfully convicted in Hampden Superior Court in November 1987 of the murder of Victoria Seymour, the shooting of Anthony Cooke, and the armed robbery of Charles Stokes.  That fact was established by the October 4, 2013 ruling by Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder that vacated Mark’s conviction and allowed him to walk out of the Hampden County Hall of Justice a free man that afternoon.

That ruling was the fruit of Thompson & Thompson’s collaboration with Centurion Ministries, a nationally acclaimed innocence project.  In Mark’s case, Centurion’s Executive Director James C. McCloskey and Richard Hepburn conducted an extensive investigation and produced newly discovered evidence that Thompson & Thompson turned over to Hampden District Attorney Mark Mastroianni. Attorneys Linda J. Thompson and John M. Thompson then filed a motion for a new trial, asserting that the newly discovered evidence proved that Mark Schand was innocent of these crimes and that his 1987 trial was unfair.  The District Attorney conducted his own investigation that confirmed Centurion’s revelations; an evidentiary hearing was conducted and the District Attorney then assented to Mark Schand’s motion, solely on the ground that the newly discovered evidence might have led to a different result in the trial.  A brief description of the case is found in Mark Schand’s Motion For Stay, located here.  The motion for new trial and memorandum in support, which give a detailed description of the case, are located here.

The only issue in this case was identification; no other evidence linked Mark Schand to these crimes.  The evidence in this case illustrates how easily very persuasive identification evidence can be fabricated by unscrupulous law enforcement officials, using bribery and suggestive methods to direct and encourage unscrupulous and unwitting witnesses to follow their lead.  It also shows how easily these manipulations can be concealed from defense counsel and the courts.

The Report and Recommendation To The Justices by the Supreme Judicial Court’s Study Group on Eyewitness Evidence, released in September, 2013, addresses many of the law enforcement methods that can unwittingly lead to misidentifications.  A link to that document is here.  Criminal defense lawyers are encouraged to study and incorporate these recommendations into their practices.  Of course, ethical and moral education is needed to counter the unscrupulous methods that led to Mark Schand’s wrongful conviction.  We hope that District Attorney Mastroianni’s actions in this case will prompt some serious reforms in Springfield Police Department standards and practices, and will alert criminal defense lawyers to the types of unscrupulous practices that it is their responsibility to dig out and expose.