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 interest. ``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.