March 17, 1990 RETRIAL CLEARS MAN OF A 1983 MURDER Doris Sue Wong, Globe Staff Louis Santos, who spent three years in prison for a murder he always insisted he did not commit, was acquitted yesterday by a Suffolk County jury in his second trial for the 1983 robbery and fatal shooting of a social worker in Dorchester. After Superior Court Judge Robert Banks declared that Santos was free to leave, he embraced his lawyer, Peter J. Muse and, with tears welling in his eyes, walked away from the defense table and into the outstretched arms of his mother, sister and brother. The 12-member jury, after deliberating three days, acquitted Santos of first-degree murder, assault, and armed robbery charges. Outside the courtroom, her voice trembling, Santos' mother, Annette, said, "I thank God it's over. I am bitter; I was very bitter. But just basically I thank God it's over." Santos, 26, of Dorchester, was too overcome with emotion to speak. But his older brother, Melvin, exploded in anguish: "Tell the . . . to go find the killers now. They kept my family hostage for seven years. They held him for seven years and he can never get that back." Santos was accused of being one of three assailants who robbed social worker Colleen Maxwell at gunpoint as she escorted a resident of a group home for mentally handicapped adults to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Ashmont Station in Dorchester on Oct. 28, 1983. After the resident, Charles Bartick, now 39, was struck on the head and began bleeding, Maxwell, 32, ran back to the Van Winkle House to summon help and get her car to chase the assailants. Maxwell was shot as she tried to cut off the suspects on Mercier Avenue. Santos was arrested about seven minutes later nearly a mile away from the shooting scene. He was convicted in 1985 and had served three years of a life prison term when the Supreme Judicial Court in 1988 threw out his conviction and ordered a new trial. The SJC found that the judge who presided over the first trial should not have admitted into evidence Bartick's identification of Santos in an police station interrogation room. The SJC said the identification was unduly suggestive because Santos was the only black man who was not in a police uniform in the room. Following yesterday's verdict, Santos, his family and a half-dozen supporters stood in a circle outside the courtroom, linked hands and prayed, "We thank you God for a new life. We ask you to put forgiveness in our hearts." The anger, however, still lingered. Annette Santos blamed her son's ordeal on shoddy police work, while Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler, pastor of the Church of the United Community in Roxbury, lambasted Suffolk District Attorney Newman Flanagan for prosecuting Santos. "I think it sends out a very strong message that this district attorney is incompetent, ineffective and callous," Ellis-Hagler said. "That a young man could be held for seven years in a case like this is an utter sin." Said Annette Santos: "The police didn't do no work. They went for black kids and they got the first black kids they saw." A spokesman for Flanagan and assistant district attorney Daniel Mullane, who prosecuted the second trial, declined comment. Santos' lawyer, Peter J. Muse, said he was delighted for the family but declined to assign blame. "It's one that slipped through the cracks," Muse said. Without any apparent witnesses to the shooting, the case against Santos rested heavily on the testimony of two high school students who rode in a police cruiser to help search for suspects and identified Santos as one of three youths they saw run from Mercier Avenue after shots were fired. At the retrial, Muse suggested that the identifications of Santos by the two witnesses, William Marinelli and Kevin Hagberg, were tainted because they followed a highly emotional and suggestive chain of events. There was evidence that Marinelli and Hagberg identified Santos after they saw Maxwell lying on the ground dying from a gunshot wound, heard police radio communications that a suspect was being chased and then saw the suspect, Santos, being led out of a three-decker in handcuffs. According to testimony, however, Santos did not fit the descriptions Marinelli and Hagberg provided to police. Marinelli and Hagberg said all three youths were ages 13 or 14 and one was wearing a blue corduroy jacket. At the time of his arrest, Santos was 20 and wearing a blue windbreaker. Two other witnesses who also apparently saw the same three black youths running near the shooting scene had described them in court as "munchkins" and "very young." Santos, who testified in his own defense, said he was in Evans Park playing basketball and buying and selling marijuana at the time the crimes were committed. Santos said he ran from the park when a cruiser searching for shooting suspects pulled up because he had marijuana in his jacket. When police returned to the area where Santos said he had discarded the marijuana, no drugs were found. Santos' medical records also revealed he took medication and had been hospitalized several times throughout his life for chronic asthma, raising the question of whether he was physically capable of running the 7/8-mile up hilly streets between Mercier Avenue and Evans Park in seven minutes.