Boston Globe
Christopher Harding
Christopher Harding

 January 24, 1998 

 DA clears man convicted by police lies 
 Defendant may file suit over jail time
 Mitchell Zuckoff, Globe Staff 

 The slate has been wiped clean for Christopher Harding, a Roxbury man who 
 was convicted of attempted murder based on falsehoods by Boston police.

 One month after a judge threw out Harding's conviction and ordered a new 
 trial, Suffolk County prosecutors said yesterday they would not try him a 
 second time. The move not only wipes out the charges, it also clears the 
 way for a civil suit to compensate Harding for the more than six years he 
 spent in prison Harding, who finished his prison term in 1995, was stunned 
 when told of the action by the office of Suffolk District Attorney Ralph 
 C. Martin II. "I'm clean? . . . I'm free? You mean, this makes it like it 
 never happened? Oh, yes, that's good news, very, very good news."

 Harding was convicted in 1990 of attempting to murder a police officer, 
 but the case was flawed from the start.

 Last month, the Globe Spotlight Team detailed how the chief prosecution 
 witness against Harding, Officer Terence O'Neil, changed his story under 
 oath, gave faulty grand jury testimony, and violated a judge's order about 
 speaking to other witnesses.

 The Globe story also showed how a grand jury report contradicted O'Neil's 
 testimony, and detailed new evidence that pointed to another man as the 
 would-be killer.

 Two weeks later, Superior Court Judge Vieri Volterra ordered a new trial 
 for Harding, based in part on "serious questions about the veracity" of 
 testimony by police officers. He also cited lies by police about why 
 O'Neil's partner could not attend the trial; her testimony likely would 
 have helped to prove Harding's innocence. The judge called those lies "a 
 fraud upon the court" that themselves justified a new trial.

 In the court filing yesterday, Martin said his office "determined that the 
 interests of justice would not be served by further prosecution." The 
 filing said Martin's office made the decision after prosecutors 
 "thoroughly reviewed the facts and information presently known concerning 
 the events surrounding these indictments, as well as some of the issues 
 raised . . . [by] Justice Volterra."

 The decision also was signed by Leslie O'Brien, the assistant district 
 attorney who prosecuted Harding. Last month, O'Brien acknowledged "serious 
 concerns regarding the justice of Mr. Harding's conviction."

 Neither Martin nor police officials would comment about the filing.

 Harding's lawyer, Robert S. Sinsheimer of Boston, praised the decision by 
 Martin's office but said the case was far from over.

 "Christopher Harding's search for justice is just beginning," said 
 Sinsheimer, who learned of the decision while in London. He said he and 
 his co-counsel, Larry Rizman, "are going to leave no stone unturned to 
 ensure that not only appropriate reparations are made to Mr. Harding."

 Sinsheimer declined to say how much money a civil suit would seek in 
 damages, but added: "Mr. Harding has lost everything. The value of freedom 
 is impossible to quantify."

 Harding, 45, was a longshoreman and laborer when he was arrested in August 
 1989 in the stairwell of a Mission Hill housing project building where he 
 had grown up. Harding said he had been sleeping in the stairwell for more 
 than five hours.

 Police said he was hiding in the stairwell after shooting one man in the 
 chest and then firing at Officer O'Neil. The wounded man survived; O'Neil 
 was not injured.

 A federal investigation last year into gang activity in Roxbury supported 
 Harding's claim of innocence, turning up evidence that the gunman was 
 reputed drug dealer Robert Owens. Owens was indicted on an array of 
 federal charges, which did not include the shooting Harding was arrested 

 "When I first got out, I never thought it would go this far, that I'd get 
 my name cleared," Harding said yesterday. "This is cause for celebration. 
 I'm going to tell the world I was right. That'll be my celebration