May 5, 2004
SPECIAL REPORT: JUSTICE DENIED
These men's lives ruined forever
By Maggie Mulvihill
Neil Miller says he can't even get a job at McDonald's after 10 years behind bars.
Peter Vaughn developed a debilitating drug habit when he was freed.
Ulysses Rodriguez Charles' 24-year-old daughter killed herself while he was in jail.
All three tell searing stories about the horror of being an innocent man serving hard state prison time, and the desperation they now feel trying to assemble new lives after being freed.
``I can't get the time back I lost,'' said Charles, now 50, who did 19 1/2 years after being wrongly convicted in 1981 of raping three Brighton women. ``I try to deny those years. I can. I am. I do it very well, but everything has consequences,'' he said.
In prison, Charles said he lifted weights to relieve the ``unbelievable'' stress. The food was rank. There was no healthcare. And his daughter, Denise, walked into traffic when he was four years into his sentence.
``The things you used to feel, you don't feel anymore. I feel empty. What is the point?'' asked Charles.
In 2000, he was in jail when he married his wife, Rosalind. Today, they live in Dorchester, and he's a member of the iron worker's union, watching most of his buddies from the past retire. The time taken out of his life makes him bitter.
``I think someone should compensate me,'' Charles said, days after learning he may not have grounds to sue prosecutors. ``I'm very disappointed by that.''
Neil Miller, now 37, said when he entered prison, his terror accelerating as fellow inmates taunted him as a ``tree jumper, panty raider, skinner'' - prison slang for rapists.
He was furious when he learned the woman who led the investigation against him, Lt. Margot Hill, had been promoted. ``It disgusts me,'' Miller said. ``And it's a slap in the face to every victim that was raped.
``If it happened to me, and she investigated mine, how many other cases of rape has she investigated where she has missed key evidence and that person is in jail as well?'' Miller asked.
Miller never got an apology from Hill, any other police officer or the prosecutor - though he did get an apology letter from the victim after his release.
Police officials defend Hill, saying the victim identified Miller four separate times. Also, because DNA testing was not admissible in state courts until 1994, testing of sheets on the bed where the rape took place was not an option.
Miller said those excuses mean nothing to him. The real rapist is out there ``endangering my daughter, my nieces, their families, your family,'' he said.
Vaughn, 43, said he survives on a small disability check and what he makes working in the kitchen at a Brockton mental health center. He missed the first three years of his son's life - a son who died three years ago. ``For all the suffering I did, with loss of love and loss of family while incarcerated, there's no getting that time back,'' he said.