James Lucien Freed After 27 Years in Prison on Wrongful Conviction Tied to Police Coverup

James Lucien is exonerated Tuesday after spending 27 years in prison on wrongful convictions of murder and armed robbery that have been tied to a police coverup.

Lucien, 48, had been sentenced to a life sentence for the 1994 murder of Ryan Edwards, 23, who was shot, according to WCVB-TV. Judge Robert Ullman exonerated Lucien in Suffolk County Superior Court.

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office said Detective John Brazil, a former Boston police officer who charged Lucien with the murder, was in a corruption scheme from 1990 to 1996, where officers plotted to file false warrant applications to lie, rob, and steal from drug dealers, according to WHDH. They also stole cash that was for drug trade proceeds and kept it for themselves.

Brazil cooperated in a federal investigation and testified against Kenneth Acerra and Walter Robinson, fellow Boston police detectives who both pleaded guilty, the DA's office reported. In exchange for his testimony, Brazil received immunity, serving no time. As of now, he is receiving a pension.

"The person to blame is the lead detective in this case. Detective Brazil. If he had been honest and if he had done his job correctly, we would not be here," Ullman said, WHDH reported.

Dennis Toomey, Lucien's defense attorney, had said due to an improper police investigation, his client's charges should be cleared.

"The heart of our appellate argument here is that the jury simply did not hear evidence they could have used to acquit Mr. Lucien, so he didn't get due process," Toomey said.

"Almost everywhere we look in this case, there are serious problems," said Special Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Jeanne Kempthorne amid the hearing.

"The fact is when they didn't investigate properly, men and women get wrongfully convicted," Toomey said, according to WHDH. "So it's scary to think about. I think there probably is more."

Corruption Scheme, Boston Police, Exoneration, James Lucien
John Brazil, Kenneth Acerra, and Walter Robinson were involved in a corruption scheme from 1990 to 1996 as Boston police officers. In this photo, police officers in riot gear stand guard during a pro-police and Trump rally outside the State House in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 27, 2020. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

"I feel good because I'm with my family now," Lucien said Tuesday. "I've been waiting a whole 27 years for this, and now I have the opportunity to be free."

Edwards' family members opposed Lucien's release.

"I think it's horrible," said Dionne Richards, Edwards' sister. "Now he's free and there's nobody to help our family, and my brother's murder goes as another unsolved murder."

Ullman urged Edwards' family not to blame Lucien, but instead Brazil, who lied and tampered with evidence.

"It's clear to me that justice may not have been done as to the murder and armed robbery charges," the judge said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.