Boston Herald
 September 9, 2004 

 Hired killer: Boozing lawyer botched trial
 By Franci Richardson

 A two-time Purple Heart recipient who has spent 27 years in jail on a 
 murder-for-hire rap is demanding a new trial on grounds that his attorney 
 made a series of dire errors, including drinking on the job.

 ``My innocence is an echo in a canyon somewhere and it's not being heard 
 by anyone,'' Robert Lee, 67, said at Norfolk prison.

 Lee, convicted in May 1977 of shooting to death the cheating boyfriend of 
 a Sterling woman who planned to pay $2,500, maintains his trial lawyer - 
 Frank J. Opie - mounted a sloppy defense fraught with conflicts of 

 ``I've never seen a case of greater innocence,'' said Mary T. Rogers, 
 Lee's lawyer, who planned to file a motion for a new trial today at 
 Worcester Superior Court. ``Opie drank throughout Lee's trial. During 
 trial, Opie had lunch with Lee and a bottle of wine.''

 Rogers is also co-counsel for Marlon Passley, who served four years in 
 Suffolk County for a murder he did not commit.

 In Cotuit recently, Opie admitted having abused alcohol, but denied 
 drinking at work.

 ``There is no question. I was a drunk,'' said the now inactive attorney. 
 ``I was a heavy drinker. I didn't drink at lunch, but after. And if I did, 
 it didn't affect the case. I could hold my booze.''

 Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte has said his appeals division 
 will review the motion.

 Lee was convicted of shooting Angel Santos Davila through the door of the 
 home he shared with his girlfriend, Janet Brady.

 After Lee rejected a plea deal, Brady accepted it and turned state's 
 witness against him. She served seven years in prison, and died in 2001.

 Her son, Lance Brady, 45, said his mother told him she never wanted Lee to 
 kill Davila, just beat him up, which is what Lee's bid for a new trial 
 alleges Lance Brady and his friend Dennis Foss had offered to do for free. 
 They were never called to testify.

 The 86-page motion for a new trial also charges Opie failed to:

 - Disclose a conflict of interest since he represented Brady in divorce.

 - Hire a firearms expert.

 - Present Lee's alibi witnesses who accounted for every minute of Lee's 
 time at a bar in Sterling.

 Opie was also admonished several times by then Judge John T. Ronan for 
 being unprepared. Opie could not give the judge a list of witnesses 
 because ``he didn't know a lot of their names,'' according to the motion.

 Ronan was frustrated.

 ``You have had seven months to prepare this case,'' the judge said. ``I am 
 not going to have the defendant prejudiced because of your cavalier 
 attitudes . . .''

 Lee received two Purple Hearts while serving 14 years in the Army. During 
 Vietnam he was wounded by three grenades.