September 6, 2004 Plaintiff can sue in wrongful arrest By Tom Mashberg Asserting that state police investigators knew they had the wrong man, a Superior Court judge has cleared the way for a Walpole native to sue the state for his wrongful arrest six years ago in the murder of a Foxboro grandmother. ``On the morning of the day of the plaintiff's arrest, the Massachusetts State Police knew that the plaintiff'' - Edmund F. Burke - ``was not the person who murdered Irene Kennedy,'' Suffolk Superior judge Carol Ball wrote in a ruling made public last week. Kennedy, 75, was found stabbed to death, bitten and mauled on Dec. 1, 1998. She had separated briefly from her husband during their walk in Bird Park in Walpole. The facts of the case, Ball added, ``could be considered an effort by the officers to subvert the integrity of the warrant process by selling the magistrate shoddy goods.'' Burke, Ball noted, was ruled out as the killer through DNA evidence on Dec. 10, 1998 - four-and-a-half hours before he was led away in shackles by state and Walpole police in front of the news media and a jeering throng. ``Imagine being in a jail full of angry criminals, being treated as the vicious mutilation murderer of a beloved old lady,'' Burke said in an interview yesterday. ``Can it get any worse than that? Everyone hated me, the guards too. ``Here was their theory of the murder,'' added Burke, whose brother's wife is the eldest daughter of Irene Kennedy. ``I was irate because I hadn't been invited to the Kennedy family's Thanksgiving dinner.'' Earlier this year, Martin G. Guy, 42, of Norwood, who is serving a life sentence for a subsequent 1999 stabbing murder, was identified through DNA testing as the man whose saliva was found in bite marks on Kennedy's breasts. A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office, which is defending the state in the civil case, said the office could not comment on the pending matter. Burke, 52, who was the sole caretaker of his ailing and elderly mother at the time, spent 41 days in jail and was widely demonized as a sick killer. Living near the murder scene in a ramshackle house, he quickly became the focus of state police and former Norfolk County prosecutors eager for an arrest to soothe a jittery public. ``All of the stuff they came up with to arrest me has proven to be lies or false representations to the court,'' Burke said. ``It was like dealing with a Chinese tribunal. They did everything they could to make their evidence point to me.'' While Burke was jailed, his house was ransacked by police and declared a fire hazard by the Walpole fire chief, who ordered the power shut off. The plumbing and heating systems froze and cracked, forcing Burke's mother, Annette, 88, to move into a motel. ``They could hear my mother sobbing alone in the motel room, saying, `Why are they doing this to my poor Eddie?' '' Burke said. ``It was like a death sentence to her, yanking her from her surroundings and seeing her son framed for a horrific murder. ``She was treated like a pariah, just like me,'' he said. ``If what happened to me was bad, what happened to her was worse. This travesty killed her.'' Annette Burke died soon after her son was released from jail on Jan. 20, 1999, as a result of the withheld DNA evidence. In her ruling, which shot down the state's effort to have Burke's lawsuit dismissed, Ball said the facts brought forward by Burke and his attorneys, Sinsheimer & Associates, show state police learned of the DNA mismatch from the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory at about 11 a.m. on the day of Burke's arrest. They nonetheless omitted the DNA findings when seeking a warrant against him, Ball wrote, and Burke was arrested at about 3:30 the same day.